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Finland Tightens Border Control, Closes Most Crossings with Russia

Finland will close all but one of the border crossing points still open along its frontier with Russia from November 24 in a bid to stem a flow of asylum seekers, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said.

Orpo announced the additional closures at a news conference on November 22, saying the move will leave only the northernmost border crossing open, which Orpo said “requires a real effort to get there.”

Since the beginning of the month, hundreds of people without valid travel documents have entered Finland from Russia to seek asylum, prompting Helsinki to shut several crossings and accuse Moscow of funneling migrants from a range of nations. The Kremlin denies the charge.

“Undoubtedly Russia is instrumentalizing migrants” as part of its “hybrid warfare” against Finland, said Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen on November 22.

“We have proof showing that, unlike before, not only Russian border authorities are letting people without proper documentation to the Finnish border but they are also actively helping them to the border zone,” Valtonen said in an interview with the Associated Press. Finland is ready to completely close the border with Russia, if necessary, she said.

After the first round of closures were announced on November 16, migrants shifted to other crossings, according to Orpo.

Only the Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint, known as Lotta on the Russian side, will continue to operate. It is located 240 kilometers from the Russian city of Murmansk. The closure will last until at least December 23.

In addition, Frontex, the EU border agency, plans to deploy officers and equipment to Finland as soon as next week in response to a request from Helsinki, the agency said.

EU Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson said earlier this week that Finland had asked for 60 Frontex officers on top of 10 already stationed along its 1,340-kilometer frontier with Russia.

According to Finnish media, more than 500 asylum seekers have arrived across the Russian border since the beginning of November. Among them are citizens of Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

By RFE/RL

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