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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Finland declared the closure of all land borders with Russia again

Finnish Ministry of the Interior declared the closure of all land borders with Russia from December 15 to January 14.

The Finnish Ministry of the Interior declared the closure of all land borders with Russia from December 15 to January 14, citing a surge in illegal immigration. This decision comes just hours after the reopening of two out of eight border crossings, revealing the complexity of Finland’s battle against unlawful entries.

Background

The issue of illegal immigration prompted the Finnish government to take drastic measures on November 16, closing four of the eight border crossing points along the southeastern border with Russia. This initial decision, effective from November 18, was intended to last until February 2024. Subsequently, on November 22, three more crossings were shut down until December 23, leaving only one open at Raja-Joosep for asylum seekers. However, escalating illegal immigration forced Finland to close all border crossings, including Raja-Joosep, on November 28 until December 13.

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Reopening and Immediate Setback

On Tuesday, the government, reassessing the situation, decided to reopen the Vaalimaa and Niirala border crossings on Thursday, believing that illegal immigration had ceased since the November 28 closure. Unfortunately, the reopening led to an immediate resurgence of illegal entries, with 29 individuals illegally crossing the border on the first morning. In response, the government swiftly ordered the closure of these two border crossings, effective Friday night.

National Security Concerns

The Ministry of the Interior claims that observations by the Border Guard and received information connect illegal entries to foreign states and international crimes. Citing the need to defend national security and public order, as well as to prevent undue influence on immigration procedures, the government justifies the closure of these crossing points. Notably, Finland alleges that the surge in asylum seekers, especially from third countries, is a consequence of Russia’s policy change, allowing travel without proper documentation.

Impact on Asylum Procedures

In response to the escalating situation, Finland has centralised all asylum applications at external borders to designated crossing points for air and water transport. As of now, asylum applications at land borders are strictly prohibited. This shift in approach aims to streamline the processing of asylum seekers and maintain control over immigration procedures. The government plans to uphold these measures until January 14, 2024, after which a reassessment will determine if adjustments are necessary.

International Relations and Accusations

The strained situation at the Finnish-Russian border has also sparked diplomatic tensions. Finland accuses Russia of facilitating the influx of asylum seekers, contributing to the current crisis. This accusation adds complexity to the bilateral relationship, potentially affecting not only immigration policies but also broader diplomatic ties between the two nations.

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Finland’s struggle with illegal immigration at its eastern border reflects the broader challenges faced by countries dealing with unexpected surges in asylum seekers. The recent closure of all land borders with Russia highlights the gravity of the situation and the government’s commitment to safeguarding national security. As Finland navigates this complex issue, international implications and diplomatic relationships remain key factors in finding a lasting solution to the ongoing border crisis.