Estonia has raised concerns about the alleged manipulation of immigration by Russia along Europe’s eastern borders, pointing to an increase in asylum seekers attempting to enter Estonian and Finnish territories.
The country’s Interior Ministry reported that around 30 migrants, mostly from Somalia and Syria, made unsuccessful attempts to cross into Estonia from Russia via the Narva crossing since November 16. As a result, none of them sought asylum, and all were refused entry.
According to InfoMigrants, last week, an additional 150 individuals were also refused entry into Estonia. In this regard, Veiko Kommusaar, Head of the Border Guard Division of the Estonian police said that these individuals typically travel independently, and there is no apparent coordination from Russian officials, unlike the 30 people in the previous week.
In addition, Minister of Interior Affairs of Estonia Lauri Laanemets labelled these irregular crossing attempts at the EU’s external eastern border as a “hybrid attack operation” designed to compromise security and create unrest among the population of the Baltic state.
The refusal of entry for 30 migrants at the Estonian-Russian border coincides with an increase in the number of irregular migrants at the Finnish-Russian border. In response to the situation, the EU’s border agency Frontex recently announced that it will deploy 50 officers to Finland, starting today, to address and manage the growing challenges posed by the influx of migrants.
Starting in February next year, the Ivangorod border crossing connecting Russia and Estonia will cease to permit the passage of cars. This development is expected to impact transportation between Tallinn and St. Petersburg. Efforts are underway to assess the feasibility of alternative travel options, including the potential for bus travel from Tallinn to St. Petersburg, with the consideration of crossing the border on foot in Narva.
On Monday, the Russian government asserted that Russian border guards were fulfilling their duties in accordance with established rules. The Finnish-Russian border, spanning 1,340 kilometres, is about three times longer than Estonia’s border with its eastern neighbour.
Moreover, Minister Laanemets reported that on Monday, November 20, migrants were appearing at the Narva border crossing in a coordinated way, arriving in groups of seven to 11 individuals. He also alleged that Russian border guards were documenting the events with a pre-prepared recorder as the Estonian authorities turned back the migrants.
Since May 2021, a significant number of migrants have been attempting to reach Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia via Belarus, resulting in a humanitarian crisis for those stranded along the EU’s external border.
Grupa Granica, an NGO network monitoring the situation at the Polish-Belarusian border, has reported that at least 37 migrants have lost their lives in the border region since August 2021.