The Vartius border-crossing point in Kuhmo, Eastern Finland, experienced chaos yesterday as individuals arrived on foot, bicycles, and even kick-boards. Border officials had to close the crossing twice, totalling three-and-a-half hours.
As a result, the Kainuu Border Guard District reported that 16 individuals applied for asylum at the Vartius border crossing, located over 250 kilometres east of Oulu. Preliminary details suggest that the asylum seekers come from Morocco, Somalia, and Syria.
According to the planned schedule, the border crossing point was closed at 6:00 p.m. today and will resume work at 8:00 a.m. on Monday.
Last week, the Finnish government closed four additional southern border-crossing points for the next three months, restricting asylum applications to only Vartius and Salla.
The commander overseeing the border crossing point, Jouko Kinnunen, explained that the temporary closure was in response to Russian authorities directing individuals into the border area and closing the gates behind them. Speaking to Ilta-Sanomat, Kinnunen noted that the behaviour of the last group that arrived on Saturday showed a lack of interest in entering Finland.
Helsingin Sanomat reports that multiple Russian border guard posts have been positioned along the route from Kostomuksha, Russia, to Kuhmo, Finland. In general, passing through these posts without a Schengen visa is not allowed.
In addition, Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) pointed out that the Ministry of the Interior is working on additional measures to enhance border security. She noted that the closure of four border-crossing points has had a “partly” desired effect.
Temporary obstacles have been set up at the border with support from the Finnish Defence Forces. Furthermore, Finland has sought assistance from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to enhance border security. The nature of the required support is currently under discussion between the two entities.
Finland’s decision to close its border with Russia due to concerns over irregular migration has recently drawn regret from Moscow as well. In this regard, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo expressed the belief that Russia allowed immigrants to enter Finland without regular travel documents, seeing it as a tactic to destabilize the country. In response, the Kremlin warned of countermeasures if Finland were to join NATO.
Finland’s Interior Minister, Mari Rantanen, highlighted a significant increase in southeastern border crossings since August, suggesting a change in Russia’s border policy and enforcement. Finland’s border guard authority says nearly 60 asylum seekers have arrived from Russia last week, compared to 91 arrivals in the past three months.