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Finland to reseal entire border with Russia as temporary reopening sees new influx in migrants

Cars in line wait for the closed Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia to re-open in Virolahti, Finland, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023.
Cars in line wait for the closed Vaalimaa border check point between Finland and Russia to re-open in Virolahti, Finland, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023. Copyright Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva
Copyright Heikki Saukkomaa/Lehtikuva
By Euronews with AP
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Finland accuses Russia of deliberately ushering migrants - most of whom are seeking asylum in Finland - to the border zone, which is normally heavily controlled on the Russian side.

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Finland’s government has decided to seal again, effective Friday, the Nordic country’s entire eastern frontier due to a continuing influx of migrants at the two crossing points on the border with Russia that were reopened on a temporary basis early Thursday.

Interior Minister Mari Rantanen told reporters that a decision by Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s Cabinet earlier this week to temporarily reopen the southeastern Vaalimaa and Niirala crossing points today was meant as a trial to see whether the migrant “phenomenon” still exists at the border.

The Finnish Border Guard reported that dozens of migrants without proper documentation or visas had arrived at the two checkpoints by late Thursday. The number of migrants was predicted to increase rapidly at Vaalimaa and Niirala checkpoints, prompting the Finnish government’s to react quickly and close them as of 8 p.m. Friday until January 14, Rantanen said.

At the end of November, Orpo’s government opted to close the entire 1,340-kilometer border for at least two weeks over concerns that Moscow was using migrants to destabilize Finland in an alleged act of “hybrid warfare.”

Finnish authorities say that nearly 1,000 migrants without proper visas or valid documentation had arrived at the border since August until end-November, with more than 900 of them in November alone. The numbers are much higher than usual.

Finland accuses Russia of deliberately ushering migrants - most of whom are seeking asylum in Finland - to the border zone, which is normally heavily controlled by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, on the Russian side. The Kremlin has denied that Russia is encouraging migrants to enter Finland and has said that it regrets the Finnish border closures.

There are eight crossing points for passenger and vehicle traffic on the Finland-Russia land border, and one rail checkpoint for cargo trains. As of Friday evening, only the rail checkpoint will remain open between the two countries.

Earlier December, Finnish authorities said the vast majority of the migrants who arrived in November hailed from three countries: Syria, Somalia and Yemen.

Finland, a nation of 5.6 million people, makes up a significant part of NATO’s northeastern flank and acts as the European Union’s external border in the north.

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