HELSINKI (AP) — WHEN Finland joins NATO Earlier this year, Russia threatened retaliation.
Hundreds of migrants from the Middle East and Africa are currently showing up at the Russian-Finnish border seeking entry to the Nordic country.
Finnish authorities say the surge in asylum seekers is no coincidence. They accuse Russia of driving migrants to the border in order to sow discord in return for Finland’s membership in NATO.
Here we take a look at the immigration crisis unfolding along part of Finland’s 830-mile (1,340-kilometer) border with Russia.
In Finland, the easternmost member state of the European Union, asylum seekers have long been trickling in at border crossings. However, the number has increased sharply since the beginning of this month.
According to official figures, more than 900 migrants have arrived. Finland So far since August, there have been over 800 cases in November alone.
Finnish authorities say they are from countries such as Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, and unlike in the past, Russian authorities have allowed them to enter there despite a lack of documentation. claims to have done so.
They arrive wearing sneakers in Finland’s harsh winter environment, and most of them ride bicycles.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told The Associated Press on Wednesday: “Unlike in the past, Russian border authorities are not only allowing people without proper documents to enter the Finnish border; We have obtained evidence that they are actively supporting the .
What was Finland’s reaction?
Finnish authorities quickly closed four checkpoints and closed three more, leaving only one Arctic crossing point open to asylum seekers. They sent Finnish soldiers to erect barbed wire and concrete barriers along the frontier.
Finland has also requested assistance from the EU border agency Frontex, which has announced that it will be dispatched. Dozens of officers and equipment As reinforcements to the Finnish border. Prime Minister Petteri Orupo said there was a “serious disruption in border security,” but authorities also insisted they had the situation under control.
The Kremlin denies encouraging immigration and says it deplores Finland’s border closure. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova argued on Wednesday that Helsinki should have instead sought to “find a mutually acceptable solution or receive clarifications.”
Western countries have long accused Russia and its ally Belarus of using migrants seeking safety and economic opportunities in Europe as pawns to destabilize Western democracies. European leaders called it a form of “hybrid warfare” that the Russian government is waging in conjunction with disinformation, election interference and cyberattacks.
Finland’s Foreign Minister Valtonen told The Associated Press there was no doubt that Russia was “using migrants” as part of a “hybrid war” against Finland after it joined NATO. This decision was prompted by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Other Western experts agree.
Klaus Dodds, professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway University, said: “The Finns are absolutely right that the Russians have been weaponizing immigration in conjunction with aggressive disinformation for some time. , only to create a “wedge” within a society they deem hostile.” of London.
“This is all to destabilize Finland,” Dodds added.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said this week that she felt a sense of “déjà vu” over Finland’s border challenges.
Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö pointed out this week that Russia allowed asylum seekers to approach Finland’s northern border crossing in 2015 and 2016. This is seen as a response to Finland’s increased training activities with NATO.
He recalled earlier warning that Finland needed to prepare for “some kind of malicious intent” from Russia, saying: “We are now reminded every day that Finland has joined NATO.” .
NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have also faced migrant pressure on their borders with Russia’s ally Belarus for more than two years.
Immigration from Belarus is trickling in after the EU imposed sanctions on Belarus in the run-up to a 2020 election in which authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed victory but was widely seen as fraudulent. , and suddenly there was a sudden increase.
The Baltic nation recorded an increase in migrants attempting to cross the Belarus-Latvia border in September, with a total of 107 miles (173-miles), Latvia’s Prime Minister Evika Širiša told The Associated Press during a visit to Finland this week. He said all checkpoints in the country had been closed. kilometers) remains open for asylum seekers.
Mr. Shirisha said it was impossible to know what Mr. Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin were thinking.
“That’s bad,” she said. “You can’t predict it. As in any emergency situation, we have to react and be proactive.”
Why does transition pressure cause instability?
Migration pressures are prompting democracies to abandon some of their democratic commitments to giving asylum-seekers the right to seek protection, thereby exposing the fragility of their democratic institutions.
Europe has been under intense pressure on immigration for years, sparking anti-immigrant backlash in many parts of the country and strengthening the power of far-right parties.
The latest incident occurred in the Netherlands, where anti-Muslim politicians Geert Wilders He won the election this week.
In Poland, the border crisis has deepened existing social divisions, pitting those calling for a tough stance on immigration against those favoring a more accepting approach to migrants and refugees. The government accused those who sided with the migrants of unwittingly aiding hostile foreign powers.
new walls and barriers It is now criss-crossing Europe as a result of immigration and Russian aggression. But they don’t work perfectly.
Polish border guards have detected 25,500 attempts this year to illegally cross the border from Belarus, where a large iron wall was completed last year.
Discussions about Finland and the Arctic crossing
Finns are currently debating whether national security – an absolute priority for any government of 5.6 million people due to its proximity to Russia – outweighs human rights concerns.
International agreements and treaties valued by Nordic countries require at least one border checkpoint to remain open for asylum seekers.
The Olupo government has accordingly decided to keep open the Raja Giuseppi checkpoint north of the Arctic Circle. It is the northernmost border point between Finland and Russia, located in the middle of the Lapland wilderness, about 155 miles (250 km) from Russia’s Arctic city of Murmansk.
Despite the remote location, about 55 migrants arrived at the checkpoint on Saturday, more than usual.
Vanessa Gera reported from Warsaw, Poland.
Follow AP coverage of transition issues at: https://apnews.com/hub/migration