Finland suspects Moscow uses migrants to stir trouble on eastern border
Since the beginning of August, more than 90 people have made it across the border from Russia to Finland and subsequently applied for asylum. The individuals are all third-country citizens that have used Russia for transit, the Finnish Border Guard Service informs.
The number is significantly higher than usual.
Normally, the Russian FSB Border Service does not allow third-country citizens to enter the Russian border zone without a valid Schengen visa. Lately, that practice appears to have been altered. Most of the migrant travellers that recently have made to the border-crossing points in southwest Finland do not have visas.
The situation raises growing concern in Finland, and the country’s authorities this week announced that it will no longer be possible to cross the border by bicycle. From before, border-crossing by foot is illegal.
Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen on Wednesday underlined that the government is keeping a close eye on the situation and that further measures would be taken if necessary. She does not exclude a full closure of the border, Yle reports.
The growing influx of migrants bears resemblance with the situation in late 2015 and early 2016 when several thousand third-country citizens without visas made it to northern Finland and Norway from the Russian Kola Peninsula.
The migrants stirred a chaotic situation in the Finnish and Norwegian border towns and villages.
Authorities in Helsinki believe Russian security services back then deliberately stirred the migrant crisis and that it was part of a planned provocation against the Nordic neighbours. The same might be the case now, Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen argues.
In this week’s EU foreign ministers’ meeting, Valtonen said it might be part of Russian tactics.
“I wanted to highlight the situation at the border and also that Russia has previously employed similar tactics towards Finland and perhaps also along its other western borders,” Valtonen said.
Her speech at the meeting is quoted by Yle.
Finland has a more than 1300 km long border to Russia and there are a total of nine border crossing points that connect the countries.