UPDATED Thur, NOV 23 2023
Finnish authorities have begun erecting barriers and closing border crossings with Russia in response to a spike in migrants arriving without proper documentation. According to officials, some 600 migrants have crossed into Finland from Russia in November, compared to only a handful in previous months.
The migrants are mostly young men from the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. To maintain security and border traffic flow, concrete barriers topped with barbed wire are now being installed at key crossing points in eastern Finland. Three additional crossings - Vartius, Kuusamo and Salla - will also be closed as of Saturday, leaving only one open in the far north.
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Scroll to continue Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said measures taken last week "haven't been able to stop this phenomenon." He and others accuse Russia of actively assisting migrants to reach the border, in what some call a form of "hybrid warfare" since Finland joined NATO in April. However, Russia denies any wrongdoing and protests the closure of busy checkpoints.
At the two crossings still open in Kainuu, 30 to 70 migrants arrive daily even as temperatures drop below freezing. Local authorities have had to set up temporary tents and provide food, water and warmth.
While the true motives remain unclear, Finnish officials firmly believe Russia is instrumentalizing migrants and changing its usual heavy border control to deliberately send more people to its EU neighbor. Reinforced barriers and fewer crossings aim to curb the influx while Finland seeks additional EU border support to manage the situation.
Reporting by Sophie Valkyrie