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20 May, 2024 09:14

NATO country could ‘carefully’ reopen border with Russia  

Finland may open a land crossing with its neighbor once a new migration law is adopted, its prime minister has said     
NATO country could ‘carefully’ reopen border with Russia  

Finland could partially reopen its border with Russia if Helsinki adopts a law that tightens measures for migrants, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told reporters on Sunday.   

The draft law proposed by the ruling coalition would allow border agents to turn back migrants trying to enter from Russia without processing their asylum applications.   

According to Orpo, Finland’s eastern border has remained “calm” primarily because of his government’s decision to close border crossings with Russia last year.    

“When the law is approved, we will try to carefully open the border,” Orpo said in an interview with Yle radio, adding that the measure would be part of the government’s “arsenal” to manage the frontier.    

Finland, which joined NATO last year, closed its eastern land border in late November and banned shipping from several ports after more than 1,300 asylum seekers – primarily from Africa and the Middle East – crossed over from Russian territory during a four-month period.   

The flow of migrants had previously averaged just a few hundred per year, and the Finnish government blamed Moscow for the influx. Russia has dismissed Helsinki’s claims about “weaponizing” migration.    

Fewer than 40 migrants have crossed the border from Russia through the wilderness this year since Finland shut its land crossings, Orpo said, citing Border Guard data.   

However, Finnish authorities say the legislation is needed because migrants could start arriving again as warmer weather makes travel easier. There are “thousands” of people in Russia waiting for an opportunity to reach the border, Orpo claimed, citing intelligence reports.     

“We could try to start with one border point. And if cooperation is established on both sides of the border, this will make it possible to open other [border crossing points],” the prime minister said.    

The bill will be submitted this week to parliament, where it will need five-sixths of the votes to pass. However, legislation that would allow border authorities to turn back asylum seekers who cross from Russia, with or without using force, has already sparked criticism among human rights activists.     

Finnish authorities have acknowledged that deporting migrants back to Russia without processing their asylum applications would be in breach of the country’s international human rights commitments, but say the measure will be temporary and limited.