Finland will set up barriers at four of nine border crossings along its 1,340-kilometer border with Russia at midnight between Friday and Saturday.
The background is that a large number of people have recently crossed the Finnish-Russian border, which serves as the EU’s external border, many of them with inadequate travel documents.
Finland’s Prime Minister Petteri Orpo has stated that dozens of people, most of them from the Middle East and Africa, have sought asylum after receiving assistance from Russian authorities to travel to the border area.
”A serious threat”
According to the news agency AP, what is happening is a contrast to decades of cooperation between border authorities to prevent people without necessary visas and passports from entering either of the countries.
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen describes it as ”a serious threat to public order and security.”
”There are clear indications that authorities in a foreign state have been instrumental in facilitating the illegal crossing of the border into Finland,” she said on Thursday.
”There have been several previous cases where Russia has used migrants as a kind of hybrid instrument,” says analyst Hugo von Essen.
EU member state Estonia has also noticed a change. A total of 19 Syrian and Somali citizens without Schengen visas reportedly crossed the border into the country on Thursday, according to the ERR website.
They returned to Russia as none of them applied for asylum, according to Egert Belitšev, deputy chief of the Estonian border forces. Interior Minister Lauri Läänemet describes the events as a ”hybrid attack” from the Russian side aimed at destabilizing and creating unrest, according to ERR.
The Police and Border Guard Board states that they are ready to close the border crossings to Russia if the pressure increases.
The Kremlin has expressed regret over Finland’s actions but has not commented on the accusations.