Finland Accuses Russia of Orchestrating Migrant Crisis on its Eastern Border

by Lucas Garcia
Finland-Russia Migrant Crisis

Finland’s recent accession to NATO was met with threats of retaliation from Russia. This year, an unprecedented number of migrants from the Middle East and Africa have been arriving at Finland’s eastern border with Russia. Finnish officials are pointing fingers at Russia, suggesting this is a deliberate act of discord in response to Finland joining NATO. This article examines the ongoing migrant situation along Finland’s 1,340-kilometer border with Russia.

The phenomenon of asylum seekers at Finnish border checkpoints isn’t new, but there’s been a marked increase recently. Official records indicate over 900 migrants arrived since August, with a significant spike in November. These individuals, coming from nations like Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, are often ill-equipped for Finland’s winter, many arriving on bicycles. Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen disclosed evidence indicating active Russian involvement in facilitating migrants’ travel to the border, a departure from previous patterns.

Finland’s Response

Reacting swiftly, Finland closed several border checkpoints, leaving only one Arctic crossing open for asylum seekers. Additionally, Finnish troops have been deployed to reinforce the border with barbed wire and concrete barriers. Assistance has also been sought from the EU border agency, Frontex. Prime Minister Petteri Orpo described the situation as a severe disruption of border security, though authorities maintain that they have the situation under control.

Russia denies any involvement in the migrant surge and expresses regret over Finland’s border closures. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova suggested Finland should have sought a mutually beneficial solution or clarification.

Hybrid Warfare Accusations

Western nations have accused Russia and Belarus of exploiting migrants as tools in destabilizing Western democracies. This strategy, part of what’s termed “hybrid warfare,” includes disinformation, election meddling, and cyber attacks. Finnish Foreign Minister Valtonen asserts that Russia is using migrants as instruments in this warfare, especially post-Finland’s NATO membership. Geopolitics expert Klaus Dodds supports this view, highlighting Russia’s tactic of creating societal divisions.

Historical Context and European Perspectives

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson drew parallels between the current situation and past events, recalling Russia’s similar tactics in 2015 and 2016. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö also noted past instances of Russia allowing migrants access to Finnish borders as a response to Finland’s increased NATO cooperation.

The migration pressure has not been unique to Finland. NATO nations like Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have experienced similar issues on their borders with Belarus, Russia’s ally. Latvian Prime Minister Evika Siliņa commented on the unpredictability of the intentions of Lukashenko and Putin.

Broader Impact of Migration Pressure

The influx of migrants challenges democratic principles, particularly the commitment to asylum rights, highlighting the fragility of democratic systems. Europe has faced migration challenges for years, leading to a rise in far-right parties and social divisions.

Internal Debate and Arctic Crossings in Finland

In Finland, there’s an ongoing debate balancing national security against human rights concerns. The government has kept the Raja-Jooseppi checkpoint open in Lapland, complying with international agreements to allow asylum seekers access.

Despite its remote location, this checkpoint continues to see a steady flow of migrants, underscoring the complexity and urgency of the situation.

Reported by Vanessa Gera from Warsaw, Poland.

For more on migration issues, visit AP’s migration coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Finland-Russia Migrant Crisis

Why is Finland accusing Russia of causing a migrant crisis on its border?

Finland believes that Russia is deliberately sending migrants from the Middle East and Africa to its border as retaliation for Finland joining NATO. This significant influx of migrants is seen as a tactic of discord by Russia.

How has Finland responded to the increased number of migrants at its border?

Finland has closed several border checkpoints, leaving only one Arctic crossing open for asylum seekers. They have also deployed troops to erect barbed wire and concrete barriers and requested assistance from the EU border agency Frontex.

What is hybrid warfare, and how is it related to the migrant crisis on Finland’s border?

Hybrid warfare refers to a combination of conventional military tactics and non-military techniques like disinformation, cyber attacks, and using migrants to destabilize a country. Finland and other Western nations accuse Russia of using this strategy, including the orchestration of the migrant crisis, as part of its hybrid warfare tactics.

Has this type of migrant pressure been experienced by other European countries?

Yes, other NATO countries such as Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have faced similar migration pressures on their borders with Belarus, an ally of Russia. This is seen as part of the broader tactic of using migration to create instability in these countries.

What are the broader implications of this migrant crisis for European democracies?

The crisis challenges the core democratic values of these nations, particularly their commitment to asylum rights, and exposes the fragility of democratic systems. It has also triggered a rise in far-right political movements and deepened social divisions in Europe.

More about Finland-Russia Migrant Crisis

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EmmaK November 25, 2023 - 8:51 pm

didn’t realize how complex the whole NATO thing could get, especially with countries like Finland stuck in the middle. Kudos to the journo for breaking it down!

John Miller November 25, 2023 - 9:18 pm

Wow, this is serious stuff! Russia’s really pushing the boundaries here. Surprised to see Finland taking such a strong stand tho…

Mike_the_Geek November 26, 2023 - 8:02 am

Interesting article. But I think there’s more to it than meets the eye. Russia’s always been strategic, but this is a whole new level of geopolitical chess.

SteveB November 26, 2023 - 1:13 pm

So it’s like a chess game with real people as pawns… Dark times we are living in, really makes you think about where the world is heading


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