Finland Closes Border Crossings Amid Accusations of Russian Facilitation of Migrant Flow

Migrants arriving from Russia board a van to be transported to the Joutseno Reception Centre at the Nuijamaa border station between Russia and Finland in Lappeenranta, Finland.CREDIT: LEHTIKUVA

In response to a surge in undocumented migrants entering Finland, the country has decided to close four crossing points on its long border with Russia. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo and Interior Minister Mari Rantanen announced the closure of the south-eastern crossing points – Imatra, Niirala, Nuijamaa, and Vaalimaa – effective midnight on Friday. This move is aimed at stemming the flow of Middle Eastern and African migrants, with Finland accusing Moscow of facilitating their passage in recent months.

The 1,340-kilometer Finland-Russia land border serves as the European Union’s external frontier, mostly traversing thick forests in the south to the rugged landscape in the Arctic north. Finnish authorities cited a change in the operations of Russian border authorities, pointing to dozens of migrants arriving without proper documentation and allegedly being aided by Russian authorities in reaching the heavily controlled border zone.

Guards patrol a trial border fence at the Finnish-Russian border in Imatra, Finland.CREDIT: LEHTIKUVA/AP

The Finnish Border Guard reported that Russia had started allowing undocumented travelers access to the border zone, where they could request asylum in Finland. Migrants, mainly from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Turkey, and Somalia, reportedly arrived on bicycles provided and sold to them, using Russia as a transit country to enter Finland and the EU.

Since September, approximately 280 third-country migrants have arrived in Finland from Russia. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned Russia’s instrumentalization of migrants, expressing support for Finland’s measures to protect European borders.

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö linked Russia’s actions to Finland’s NATO membership in April, noting the need to be prepared for potential retaliation. The closure of border crossings comes amid escalating tensions, with Finland recently concluding a new bilateral defense agreement with the United States.

The Nuijamaa border station between Russia and Lappeenranta, Finland.CREDIT: LEHTIKUVA/AP

In response to Finland’s decision, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov expressed regret, stating that Russia deeply regretted Finland’s deliberate distancing from their previously good bilateral relations. Meanwhile, neighboring Norway and Estonia are closely monitoring their borders with Russia, with Estonia stating its readiness to close all border crossing points if necessary. The situation reflects broader geopolitical implications as countries navigate the challenges of migration and strained international relations.