Finland lays out plans to block asylum seekers arriving from Russia

Finland lays out plans to block asylum seekers arriving from Russia

Finland is planning to adopt temporary legislation that will allow authorities to block asylum seekers arriving from Russia, the government has said.

It comes after the country closed all crossings on its shared 830-mile-long border late last year, after a growing number of people with a lack of valid documents, tried to enter the European Union through the country.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on Friday that Finland had been the target of “instrumentalised migration” as people have continued to arrive and the government predicts this could rise significantly with the arrival of warmer temperatures.

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The country claims Russia is funnelling people to its eastern border after Finland abandoned its long-held position of military non-alignment and joined NATO in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied the claims.

But Mr Orpo said that after closing borders, Russian authorities have not only failed to intervene in the influx of asylum seekers entering the country but “have even facilitated it”.

Migrants arrive at the international border crossing at Salla, northern Finland. File pic: Reuters

The potential legislation will now be sent out for comments and then to parliament for consideration, Mr Orpo said, adding the government hoped it would be approved as soon as possible.

It comes after the prime minister said the EU must take care of its own defence during a speech in the European Parliament on 13 March.

“Russia is pushing third country nationals towards our eastern border, this is not acceptable,” he said.

Last month, interior minister Mari Rantanen, said authorities had information thousands of people were on the Russian side of the border waiting to travel into Finland.

Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen speaks during a press conference about the situation at Finland's eastern border stations, in Helsinki, Finland, on February 8, 2024. The Interior Ministry announced that Finland will continue the closure of the border with Russia until April 14, 2024. Lehtikuva/Heikki Saukkomaa/via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. FINLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITO
Interior minister Mari Rantanen said thousands of people were still waiting to travel into Finland. Pic: Reuters

From August to December last year, the Finnish border authority reported more than 1,300 asylum seekers from nations including Yemen, Somalia and Syria entered from Russia.

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Previous numbers had averaged just one person a day.

In the first year of the war, the Finnish government placed a ban on anyone coming into the country with a tourist visa after thousands of Russians arrived trying to avoid conscription into the war with Ukraine.

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Long queues as people try to flee Russia in 2022

The government said the decision in September 2022 was justified because the continued arrival of Russian tourists endangered the country’s international relations.

Huge queues of cars were filmed lining up at borders in a bid to avoid the Kremlin’s partial mobilisation during the first months of the war.