35 migrants crossed the border into Finland at Salla on Monday. Photo: Finnish Border Guards

Russia sends migrants on bicycles across Arctic border with Finland in -22°C

Tensions are increasing as FSB again sends migrants across its northern checkpoint with Europe. A group of 35 asylum seekers came to Salla in Finnish Lapland on Monday. Norway says it is on alert.
November 20, 2023


“The situation is being investigated,” the Finnish Border Guard said in a short statement Monday afternoon after a group of 35 migrants suddenly came on bicycles in the extreme cold. The persons were from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is currently -22°C at the remote checkpoint near the town Salla in eastern Lapland.

It is still unclear who transported the asylum seekers to the border on the Russian side, but FSB Border Guards have full control of who is allowed into the border zone. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told reporters on Monday there are “indications of an organized Russian effort.”


The nearest town in Russia is Kandalaskha, 167 kilometers from the border, too far for bicycling in winter. 

Kandalaksha is south on the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk region. 

In 2016, a migrant froze to death in the same area, as he was waiting for the opening hours on the Russian side of the border.

Lapland Border Guard on Monday started to build temporary barriers on along the border at Salla. Finland’s Defence Forces are on site helping with the erection.


Finland on Friday closed four of its southern checkpoints to Russia as the number of migrants without valid Schengen-visa had increased over the last weeks. About 500 asylum seekers have arrived over the eastern border so far in November.

On Sunday, the situation at the Vartius checkpoint became chaotic and the guards on duty decided to close for traffic.

Commander at the checkpoint, Jouko Kinnunen, told Helsingin Sanomat that Russian authorities directed people into the border zone and then closed the gates behind them.

Likely, the people bicycling over to Finland at Salla on Monday are among those too late for the Vartius checkpoint.

At Raja-Jooseppi, the northernmost checkpoint in Lapland, no asylum seekers are reported so far.

Storskog on alert 

Norway has Schengen-Europe’s northernmost border with Russia.

“We are monitoring very closely what happens in Finland and what measures are implemented there,” says Chief of Staff with the Police in Finnmark, Tarjei Sirma-Tellefsen to the Barents Observer on Monday afternoon after the Storskog checkpoint closed for the day.

“We cannot go into what emergency measures we are implementing along the border,” Sirma-Tellefsen says.


Chief of staff with the Police in Finnmark, Tarjei Sirma-Tellefsen, says Norway monitors the situation along the border very closely. Photo: Thomas Nilsen


The situation at Storskog is calm, but the police are on alert for possible sudden arrivals of migrants.

Norway’s Minister of Justice, Emilie Enger Mehl, has previously said to the Barents Observer that the “border can be closed in a few hours’ notice.”

In the autumn of 2015, some 5,500 migrants entered Norway at Storskog from Russia. 


In 2015, Norwegian police deployed warm tents to receive the flow of migrants that crossed the winter-cold border from Russia at Storskog. Photo: Thomas Nilsen




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