The Finnish government
has decided to close three more border crossings with Russia, Prime Minister Petri Orpo announced on Wednesday evening, citing an alleged increase in unregistered asylum seekers from third countries. The closure will take effect at the end of the day on Friday.
Urbo and Interior Minister Marie Rantanen held a press conference in Helsinki to announce the move. They said the Justice Ministry had objected to an earlier proposal because it did not adequately protect the rights of asylum seekers and would have left some Finns stranded in Russia as well.
Finland has eight official border crossings with Russia. Four were closed last week. Wednesday’s move means that only the Raja-Giuseppe checkpoint, in Finnish Lapland, will continue to operate on Saturday.
Helsinki justified closing the border by accusing Russia of allowing asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East who lack the correct passports or visas to cross. Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen claimed that Moscow was using refugees “Accelerating the migrant crisis in Europe and destabilizing its unity.” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova rejected these accusations “Totally unfounded.”
Zakharova told reporters on Wednesday that the border issue could be easily resolved through talks with the Russian side, reminding them that Helsinki acted unilaterally although Moscow remained open to discussion. She also noted that at least some Finns are dissatisfied with the government’s actions.
Hundreds of people protested in front of the government in Helsinki last weekend to protest the border closure. Another demonstration was held in the border town of Lappeenranta, many of whose residents have friends and family in Russia.
the “leap” Up to 50-100 migrants per day pass through all checkpoints, according to Finnish media reports. The Yle outlet said 51 asylum seekers from Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria arrived at Sala checkpoint on Wednesday, while 11 others were stopped at Vartius. Both crossings are scheduled to close on Friday and will remain closed until at least December 23.
Finland had previously deployed the army to fortify Vartius. Helsinki has also asked the European Union’s coast and border guard agency, Frontex, to send 60 additional officers to help with the crisis.