In a significant development reported by Ilta Sanomat on February 6, Finland has announced its decision to maintain the closure of its border with Russia until at least February 11. This decision comes as part of Finland's continued efforts to manage the flow of migrants attempting to enter the country from the eastern flank. The Finnish government originally sealed off its border with Russia in late November 2023, aiming to halt the entry of migrants amid concerns over a surge in asylum seekers from countries such as Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.
The move to close the border was in response to what Helsinki perceives as a deliberate strategy by Russia, described as a "hybrid operation," to pressure Finland by directing asylum seekers towards its border. Despite a brief attempt to reopen two crossing points in mid-December, the Finnish government quickly reverted to a closure policy after assessing the situation.
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen noted that the conditions at the border have not seen any change since December, with reports indicating a buildup of migrants on the Russian side, poised to enter Finland. This ongoing situation prompted Finnish authorities in January to extend the border closure for an additional month, with a forthcoming review scheduled for February 8. However, insider sources suggest that the government is likely to continue the closure, seeking a more durable resolution to the challenge at hand.
Marko Saareks, deputy head of Finland's Border Guard, highlighted the gravity of the situation by mentioning the presence of potentially thousands of migrants in Russia, waiting for an opportunity to cross into Finland. Saareks also predicted that attempts to cross might intensify with the arrival of spring and the melting of snow.
Minister Rantanen has been vocal in stating that legislative changes alone will not suffice to address the complexities of the situation. She reiterated Finland's stance on Russia's actions, condemning them as a continuation of the hybrid operations against Finnish sovereignty. The scenario mirrors tactics employed by Belarus, which has been accused of orchestrating migrant flows towards the Baltic states and Poland since 2021, as a means of exerting pressure.
Finland's border strategy, particularly in seeking insights from Poland's experiences, underscores a broader regional concern over the use of migration as a geopolitical tool, underscoring the need for comprehensive solutions to secure borders and manage migration flows effectively.