Opinions

“Humanitarian Crisis” on the Russian-Finnish Border

 

Finnish border guards and police at the Raja-Jooseppi international border crossing station in Inari, northern Finland, Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. (Emmi Korhonen./Lehtikuva via AP)

Finnish authorities are confident that the current migrant situation is orchestrated by the Russian side. The Kremlin voiced regret about Finland’s decision to close the checkpoints and rejected Finnish authorities’ claims that Russia has encouraged the influx of migrants at the border to punish Finland for joining NATO.

More than 500 asylum seekers have crossed from Russia to Finland since November, Finnish public broadcaster YLE says, mostly from Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. YLE states that it is significantly more than normal.

Finland has temporarily closed all its border crossings with Russia, leaving open only its northernmost one, Raja-Jooseppi, located in the Arctic region. However, Helsinki signalled that this too could be shut down. The closures were a response to a rise in the number of undocumented asylum seekers arriving in Finland.

If necessary, closing the entire eastern border is possible, the Interior Minister said in a statement.

“Undoubtedly Russia is instrumentalising migrants” as part of its “hybrid warfare” against Finland, said the Finnish Foreign Minister. Finland joined NATO in April after decades of military non-alignment and pragmatic friendly relations with Moscow.

Russia is concerned that NATO may station its permanent military bases or heavy offensive weapons and missile defense systems in Finland. Besides, with Finland joining NATO, the alliance's border with Russia doubled in length as the border between Russia and Finland is 1,300 kilometers, or over 800 miles, long.

The Kremlin voiced regret about Finland’s decision to close the checkpoints and rejected Finnish authorities’ claims that Russia has encouraged the influx of migrants at the border to punish Finland for joining NATO. Finland’s formal accession to NATO poses no serious threat to Russia’s security, Russian Ambassador to Finland said.

The Governor of Russia’s northern Murmansk region that borders Finland posted pictures of migrants in a tent near the Salla checkpoint set up by the regional authorities to let them warm themselves up, eat and drink hot tea. He described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.” Moreover, heating points were also set up in the Republic of Karelia, Russia, for migrants from the Middle East who were trying to pass the Lyttä checkpoint to get to Finland (before it was closed).

Raja-Jooseppi is now the only crossing point open for travellers between the two countries.

Image: Laura Merikalla / Yle and Nanna Särkkä / Yle

Finland's ombudsman for non-discrimination said the remote location of Raja-Jooseppi prompted concerns that Helsinki was jeopardising the right to seek asylum.

If there is no genuine and effective access to the asylum procedure, there is an obvious danger of violating the absolute ban on return and the ban on mass deportation, the ombudsman's office said in a post on social media platform X.

Most of the migrants on the Russian-Finnish border are refugees. They are forced to leave their countries because of wars (Syria, Libya) or famine (African countries) in search of a better life. A widespread and cultural belief that Europe is a paradise of opportunity where everything will come easy has led to massive flows of refugees and migrants to Europe. As the possibilities to reach European countries through Turkey, Greece, Italy and Portugal have decreased, a certain number of migrants are now trying to reach Europe through Russia.

Migrants arrive at the international border crossing between Finland and Russia, in Salla, Finland, Nov.23, 2023. (Jussi Nukari/ Lehtikuva via AP).

In addition, U.S. policy and NATO operations, namely "humanitarian interventions" in Libya, Iraq and Syria, also have a certain impact on increasing migration flows.

The editorial board of The Arctic Century

 
28.11.2023