Finland’s border with Russia will remain closed for at least two more months. The State Council of Finland on Thursday decided not to open border crossings on the Finnish-Russian border. Their closing date has been extended until April 14.
Land border crossings on the border of Russia and Finland began to be closed by the decision of the Finnish authorities in November last year due to the influx of citizens of third countries, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, who arrived at the border points from the territory of Russia and asked for political asylum in Finland. According to the law, such applicants cannot be sent back, they must be accommodated in Finland until the procedure for considering their application is completed.
The Finnish authorities accused Russia of knowingly encouraging foreigners to seek asylum in Finland in order to destabilize the situation in the country. In November, all border crossings were closed, and consequently, it became impossible to apply for asylum at them. In December, they were opened for a short time, but two days later they were closed again. In January, the closure of border crossings was extended until mid-February.
According to the Finnish Ministry of the Interior, the situation has not changed, and if the border is opened, asylum seekers will start arriving at the border crossings again. The Ministry of Internal Affairs claims that by the end of the year there may be up to 20,000 of them. “There are at least hundreds, and possibly thousands, of migrants living in the border area who are waiting for the opportunity to continue their journey to Finland,” says Interior Minister Mari Rantanen. Migrants try to get to Finland from Russia illegally, bypassing border posts, but there are few such cases, they number in dozens.
Human rights activists and a number of Finnish residents, especially those who have relatives in Russia, criticized the authorities’ decision, claiming that it violates their rights. The Ministry of Internal Affairs calls the border closure a temporary and necessary measure. The Finnish authorities emphasize that they are considering various alternatives to the complete closure of the borders, but no decision has yet been made.
Russian-Finnish relations sharply worsened after the beginning of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Finland abandoned the policy of neutrality and joined NATO. Moscow declares that this decision will not remain without consequences. At the same time, Russia denies that it uses migration to put pressure on Finland.