Finland could re-open eastern border before Christmas

The Nuijamaa crossing point will be amongst those closed at least until 23 December. (Kari Saastamoinen / Yle)

The latest decision means that the Raja-Jooseppi crossing in Finnish Lapland will be the only eastern border checkpoint to remain open, at least until 23 December.

Finland’s government announced on Wednesday a decision to close three additional checkpoints on its eastern border until 23 December, a move which will leave just one crossing open for about a month.

As of midnight Thursday, the only eastern border checkpoint that will remain open will be the Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint near Saariselkä, Finnish Lapland.

Last week the government ordered the shutdown of four crossing points in Southeastern Finland, amid suspected Russian hybrid tactics that are bringing unusually large numbers of undocumented asylum seekers to the crossings.

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) and Interior Minister Mari Rantanen (Finns) announced that Finland will close three more checkpoints (Vartius, Kuusamo and Salla) from midnight on Thursday.

On Thursday 60 asylum seekers arrived in Salla, Finnish Lapland, with the last group arriving just before the station closed for a month.

Month deadline

Wednesday’s announcement means that the southeastern crossings (in Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala) will also reopen on 23 December, reflecting a curtailment of its previous decision, which initially planned the reopening on 18 February 2024.

Yle sought clarification on the closures from the Deputy Chief of the Border Guard, Rear Admiral Markku Hassinen.

“It was considered that a deadline of around a month is correct, taking into account the severe restrictions,” Hassinen said.

Hassinen noted that the practical effects of closing the border crossing points will be constantly evaluated and decisions made accordingly.

“In practice, if no changes are made to the current decision, then the ruling ends before Christmas. I have the impression that it is possible that the decision will have to be reviewed earlier,” Hassinen said.

Border authority to bolster resources

Meanwhile, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, has announced plans to deploy 50 additional border guard officers and other staff to bolster Finland’s operations at the border.

The agency will also provide additional equipment including patrol vehicles as early as next week, according to a Thursday afternoon press release.

“Frontex’s involvement in this situation is not solely focused on border security measures,” the statement said. “The agency is acutely aware of the humanitarian aspect of this scenario, especially considering the harsh weather conditions and the unpreparedness of the people arriving at the Finnish border. The agency remains deeply committed to ensuring that while Europe’s borders are safeguarded, the fundamental rights and dignity of all people are respected and upheld.”

Related stories from around the North :

Finland: Russia sends asylum seekers on bicycles over Arctic border to Finland in -22°C, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway : Border trouble not on agenda when FSB boss visited Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia : Cabinet postpones meeting on border crossings; Russia ‘deeply regrets’ Finnish moves, Yle News

Sweden : Key NATO commanders teamed up with newcomer Sweden at northern border with Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

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