Finland scrambles to close new migrant route via Russia to Europe

Finland scrambles to close new migrant route via Russia to Europe
# 11 June 2024 11:27 (UTC +04:00)

Only the whine of mosquitoes mars the tranquility of this idyllic spot amid the rolling forests and blue lakes of eastern Finland, on the European Union's longest border with Russia, Reuters wrote, APA reports.

But Finnish authorities fear the peace and quiet of places like Hoilola could soon be shattered by the arrival of large numbers of asylum seekers - part of what Helsinki sees as a "hybrid war" being waged by Russia against the West.

Finland is deploying more border guard patrols, drones and electronic detectors and is building fences along sections of the border. In Helsinki, parliament is expected to approve before its summer recess tough new legislation that critics say will violate the country's human rights commitments.

Late last year Finland shut all crossing points for travellers along its 1,340 km (833 mile) border with Russia indefinitely after some 1,300 migrants from nations such as Syria and Somalia arrived via that route.

Since then, only a few dozen asylum seekers have crossed the heavily forested border into Finland, but Helsinki believes the Kremlin stands ready to funnel more migrants across at any time - something Moscow has strongly denied.

Under the planned new legislation, Finnish border guards will be able to call on thousands of reservists to help patrol the frontier, to detect migrants' phone signals, to send the migrants to detention centres and - most controversially - to push them back into Russia without accepting their asylum applications.

"Finland cannot just allow the opening of such a new route (for migrants) into Europe," Finnish Interior Minister Mari Rantanen, from the nationalist Finns Party, told Reuters.

"But overall this is not about a migrant route: this is about a situation in which the authorities of another country are helping or even pressing and pushing migrants to Finland's border," said Rantanen.

Relations with Moscow, once relatively cordial, have deteriorated sharply since Finland's decision to join NATO following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

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