Finland suspects 1,000 asylum seekers of committing border offences
All of the suspects in the wide-ranging case have arrived in Finland in recent months through an eastern border checkpoint.
In total, about 1,300 people have applied for asylum in Finland at an eastern border checkpoint since August.
Tomi Kivenjuuri, head of the Finnish Border Guard’s legal division, confirmed to Yle that the migrants are suspected of committing a border offence — which means they crossed the frontier into Finland without the requisite documentation or from a place other than an official crossing point.
People found guilty of a border offence face a fine or up to one year in prison. However, the offence is not punishable if the suspect applies for international protection.
In a statement, the Interior Ministry noted that the asylum seekers are “third-country nationals and most of them have used Russia for short-term transit. They are of many different nationalities, including Syrian, Somali, Yemeni and Iraqi.”
The majority have since applied for asylum in Finland.
Finnish authorities have long suspected that Russia is behind the sudden arrival of large numbers of undocumented asylum seekers at Finnish border checkpoints. Finland partially and then fully closed the eastern border at the end of last year, before deciding earlier this week to extend the closure until at least 11 February.
“The risk that instrumentalised migration will resume at the eastern border poses a serious threat to national security and public order in Finland,” the interior ministry statement said.
Suspected involvement of criminal elements
Tomi Kivenjuuri of the Finnish Border Guard said the authority has also started investigating suspicions that third parties are channelling the flow of migrants to the Finnish border.
“There are certain criminal organisations and other external actors who act as organisers,” he said, adding that the majority of the suspects are operating from abroad, but there are some people resident in Finland who may also be involved.
“However, there are no Finns among the suspects,” Kivenjuuri noted.
The Finnish Border Guard investigates any suspected offences related to entry into the country, while the police are responsible for any other suspected crimes involving asylum seekers in Finland.
This story is posted on the Barents Observer as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.