Finland Accuses Russia of Hybrid Warfare
Finland wants to end the crossing of migrants and refugees into the country, after recording 900 asylum seekers coming in from Russia in November. This has shaken the Finnish government as numbers are very much high from less than one a day on average.
As such, Helsinki accused Moscow of waging hybrid warfare on Finland and driving refugees and migrants to the border area. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said Finland is determined to put an end to the crossing and announced that closing its 830-mile land border between the two countries for two weeks.
However, the Finnish government said people arriving by boat and air can still seek asylum.
Russia Helping Migrants to Russia
Matti Pitkaniitty, a colonel in the Finnish border guard, told BBC that legal concerns over maintaining Finland’s obligations under international refugee law were definitely a reason for the progressive closure of the border. He said border guards had seen clear evidence of Russian officials helping migrants cross into Finland – Russian border points were closed after people crossed to prevent them returning.
Pia Lindfors, executive director of the Finnish Refugee Advice Center, fears this will push asylum seekers to cross away from official border posts through the hundreds of kilometers of forests and rivers. “Now winter has arrived, this could be even more dangerous.” She believes Finnish authorities should provide help to people in need of the Russian side of the border.
Sources say asylum seekers, over the last two weeks, from Somalia, Syria, Yemen and Iraq have braved snow, Arctic temperatures and two-hour days to reach Finland. They have come on bicycles and in clothing not suitable for the extreme cold.
The Finnish government took the drastic decision to close its borders after small groups of people started to arrive without the required documents to enter the visa-free Schengen zone. Pitkaniitty pointed out that if they continue at this pace, Finland would end up with 10,000 to 15,000 a year.
Russia Cannot Force People to Stay
He said Russian authorities are saying they cannot prevent anyone to exit Russia if they have valid travel documents. “However, from the Finnish perspective Russia has become a transit country for illegal migration. This has made relations between the two neighbors – between whom tensions have been growing since Finland became a NATO member in April – extremely difficult.” This comes amid reports of Russian embassies issuing visas to people from the Horn of Africa to enter Russia to continue their journey to the Finnish border. However, Moscow has denied this.