Storskog has become the closest checkpoint for travelers between northern Finland and Russia, but January saw a further drop in crossings by 22 percent compared with December.
Finland’s eight crossings along the 1340 km frontier to Russia remain closed and the two nearest open gates are at Narva in Estonia and Storskog in northernmost Norway.
“…it was 4303 crossings at Storskog in January,” informs immigration police officer Sven Arne Davidsen in an email to the Barents Observer.
January has traditionally been a month with peaking cross-border shopping and leisure as Russia celebrates Orthodox Christmas have non-working days at the start of the month.
2024, though, differs. Davidsen says the downturn was 43 percent compared with January 2023 when 7604 crossings were counted.
The decrease compared with December 2023 was 22 percent.
In addition to cross-border shoppers, Norway allows Russian citizens with Finnish Schengen visas to transit via Storskog. Transport, however, is complicated as Russians are no longer allowed to drive private cars into Europe and there is no public transport between the Norwegian border and Finnish Lapland.
Unlike Storskog, Estonia has experienced a significant increase at its Narva checkpoint.
“We have had 10,000 border crossings since the beginning of the year. That is a really significant increase,” Tarmo Hütt of the Estonian Border Guard told Finnish news agency STT.
Before Finland closed its frontiers with Russia, the Narva checkpoint recorded about 200 crossings per month by Finnish residents.
Finnish Border Guards in Lapland informs that no illegal crossings from Russia were detected in January. Further south, migrants from the Middle East walked the snow into Finland both on January 12 and 25.
Surveillance along the northern border near Raja-Jooseppi and Salla continues to be intensified with support by officers from the European Border Guard Agency Frontex.
Related stories from around the North:
Finland: Finland suspects 1,000 asylum seekers of committing border offences, Yle News
Norway: Norway nixes border surveillance helicopter despite Murmansk migrant queues, The Independent Barents Observer
Russia: FSB pushes border opening with Finland; 18 walkers crossed illegally Thursday, The Independent Barents Observer
Sweden: EU deploys additional border guards to Finland, Radio Sweden