Monday, April 15, 2024

Finland moves to block asylum seekers from entering via Russia | Russia-Ukraine war News

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The Nordic nation closed all border crossings with Finland last year after registering a surge in asylum seekers.

Finland plans to adopt temporary legislation that will allow its border authorities to block asylum seekers seeking to enter its territory from Russia, the government has said.

Finland closed all crossings on its 1,340km (830-mile) border with Russia late last year amid a growing number of arrivals who did not possess valid documents to enter the European Union.

However, asylum seekers have continued to arrive, and the government believes the numbers could rise significantly with the advent of spring and a rise in temperatures.

Helsinki accuses Moscow of funnelling migrants to the border, a claim the Kremlin has denied.

“Finland has been the target of instrumentalised migration … Russian authorities have not only failed to intervene in this phenomenon but have even facilitated it,” Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said on Friday.

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

The interior ministry said in a statement that “Finland must be prepared for the possibility that Russia will exert prolonged pressure”.

The Vaalimaa border checkpoint between Finland and Russia in Virolahti, Finland [File: Lehtikuva/Lauri Heino/Reuters]

The Finnish border authority has said more than 1,300 asylum seekers from nations including Yemen, Somalia and Syria entered from Russia between August and December last year.

Prior to this period, the number had averaged just one person a day.

In February, Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said the authorities had information that thousands of people were on the Russian side waiting to travel to Finland.

Increased tensions

Last year, Finland abandoned its long-held position of military non-alignment and joined the NATO alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – a move that angered Moscow.

Finland’s Nordic neighbour, Sweden also joined NATO earlier this month.

INTERACTIVE-NATO-expansion-Sweden-March-24

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in remarks published on Wednesday that Finland and Sweden’s decision to join the alliance was “a meaningless step”.

Putin said that Russia would deploy troops and “systems of destruction” to the Finnish border in response.

Russia has threatened to take unspecified “political and military-technical counter-measures” in response to Sweden’s entry into NATO.

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