Finland, Russia close border for third-country citizens
If you are a Norwegian, Swede or other national, you should soon find another spot for border-crossing between Russia and the Schengen zone. In their meeting in Moscow yesterday, the Russian and Finnish presidents agreed to introduce «temporary limitations» on the border-crossing points of Salla and Lotta, the two northernmost checkpoints between the countries.
Those restrictions include the closure of the border for all third-country citizens for the next six months, including for nationals from other EU countries.
«Finland and Russia have agreed that, at the Salla and Raja-Jooseppi border crossings in northern Finland, traffic will be restricted for a period of 180 days in such a manner that only citizens of Finland and the Union State of Russia and Belarus, and their family members, will be permitted to pass through», President Sauli Niinistö says in a press release.
According to the state leader, the measure complies with the border agreement between Finland and Russia, and has been agreed at a joint meeting between the President of the Republic and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy. The restrictions will enter into force a day after the matter has been formally confirmed by an exchange of notes. Before then, the issue will be passed by a full Government session and a Presidential session.
«The aim of the restriction is to prevent organized illegal entry into Finland. In accordance with its EU commitments, Finland aims to prevent the creation of new illegal immigration routes,» Niinistö says.
The deal comes after the sides in February agreed to conclude a Russian-Finnish inter-governmental memorandum on strengthening interaction in the field of migration. That deal was formalized yesterday. It includes measures to enhance exchange of migration information between the countries.
«Finland is very content that you have taken our requests into consideration», Niinistö told Putin, a press release from the Kremlin reads.
As previously reported, the migrant flows across the Russian-Finnish northern border picked pace after the migration across the Russian-Norwegian border came to a complete halt in late November. In January and February this year, more than 1500 migrants made it across the border at Salla and Raja-Jooseppi.
The cross-border migration came to a sudden stop on 29th February after President Putin in a collegium of the FSB stated that «monitoring of the refugee flows coming into Russia or transiting onwards to European countries would be tightened».
«As we all can see, it is working», Putin said in a press conference following yesterday’s meeting.
The Russian president confirms that the migration was curbed after the Finnish president made several phone calls to the Kremlin, where he requested restrictive measures.
At the same time, Putin underlined that Russia will not take back the migrants who have already crossed into Finland.
«We have certain restrictions connected to the people who legally make it to Russia and then subsequently go as refugees to another country, in this case Finland», the Russian president said. «When their visas have expired, we can not take them back», he underlined, adding that this issue had created «certain problems» in relations with Norway.