Finland threatens to shutdown eastern border

(MENAFN) In a significant development, the Finnish government is reportedly considering the complete closure of its land border with Russia, a decision that was previously avoided due to concerns about conflicting with Helsinki's commitment to providing refuge to asylum-seekers. The potential move has sparked protests from Moscow, which rejects the restrictions and challenges Finland's characterization of the situation as a response to Russian 'hybrid warfare.'
Reports surfaced on Monday, as detailed by the daily Helsingin Sanomat (HS), revealing ongoing deliberations within the Finnish government about the possibility of a comprehensive blockade of its land border with Russia. This follows the recent shutdown of travel through all but one border crossing with Russia. Last week, Equality Commissioner Kristina Stenman criticized the government's initial proposal for a full blockade, citing potential contradictions with national and European Union law.

The Raja-Jooseppi link, the northernmost border crossing, remained open for four hours a day on Friday, primarily to facilitate the entry of asylum-seekers into Finland. However, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo emphasized on Sunday that the government is prepared to entirely halt land traffic with Russia, raising concerns about the impact on diplomatic relations between the two nations.
In a radio interview on Yle Radio 1, Prime Minister Orpo accused Moscow of "shamelessly exploiting" citizens of foreign nations to exert pressure on Western countries, including Finland. He asserted that despite a potential border closure, refugees would still have the option to apply for asylum at Helsinki Airport, which lacks air connections with Russia.

Finland's decision to impose travel restrictions follows a reported increase in asylum applications from individuals arriving from Russia, perceived by Helsinki as part of an orchestrated campaign. Border guard service statistics cited by HS indicate that over 900 applicants entered the country from Russia since August, compared to approximately 3,600 in total for the entire year. During the period between Friday and Sunday, 61 individuals reportedly crossed through the Raja-Jooseppi crossing.

The situation raises questions about the delicate balance between national security concerns, international obligations, and the humanitarian imperative to provide refuge to those in need.

As tensions escalate, Finland's potential border closure with Russia may have far-reaching implications, not only for bilateral relations but also within the broader context of European Union policies on asylum and border management. The international community watches closely as Finland navigates these complex considerations and their potential consequences.


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