Monday, May 20, 2024

EU sends border officials to Finland as asylum seekers increase in entry | NATO News

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Finland has accused Russia of pushing asylum seekers to its eastern border, a charge Russia denies.

The European Union’s border control agency Frontex will send 50 staff to Finland due to an increase in asylum seekers arriving at Russia’s eastern border.

Frontex announced on Thursday that it would send border guards and other personnel, as well as equipment such as police cars, “to strengthen Finland’s border security operations.”

Reinforcements are expected to arrive on site “as early as next week,” the statement said.

Finland announced on Wednesday it would close all its borders except its northernmost one with Russia, following a rise in the arrival of illegal migrants.

Helsinki said Russia was responsible, and Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orupo accused Russian authorities of taking “systematic and systematic actions” to facilitate the entry of migrants.

Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen said on Wednesday that “there is no doubt that Russia is using migration as a tool” as part of its “hybrid war” against Finland.

Finland joined NATO in April after decades of military non-alignment and a pragmatic friendship with Moscow. The 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia serves as the EU’s outer border and forms NATO’s northeastern flank.

Moscow has denied it is gathering desperate asylum seekers at the Finnish border.

More than 600 asylum seekers entered Finland via Russia in November, compared to just a few dozen in September and October.

Border officials said they were primarily from Yemen, Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. Most were young men in their 20s, but some were families with children, according to Border Patrol data and photos from news outlets.

Frontex Director Hans Leitens said in a statement that the agency was stepping up support as Finland faces “multiple challenges”, although he could not name Russia.

“This cooperation shows that Europe is united in the face of complex border issues and will provide support through concrete action,” added Leitens.

Frontex currently has 10 people working on the Finnish border.

In 2021, between 3,000 and 4,000 asylum seekers were stranded in a no-man’s land on the Poland-Belarus border as Warsaw deployed security forces to prevent people from entering in freezing winter temperatures.

Lithuania and Latvia also reported a sharp increase in the number of people attempting to cross their borders at the time.

The EU and Warsaw accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of masterminding the crisis, saying Minsk is deliberately luring migrants and refugees into Belarus and pushing them to the West with the promise of easy accession. did.

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