Yesterday, the Finnish Border Guard (Rajavartiolaitos) unveiled images of a pilot fence designed for the eastern border. The guard maintains that the barrier is a vital measure to deter and delay unauthorised border crossings, channel their movement, and prevent immediate infiltration. A necessity in the face of large-scale illegal immigration, the fence is expected to facilitate their work, even in ordinary situations.
However, the image of the completed pilot section of the fence sparked ridicule and confusion on Twitter, as the reality of the fence seemed to diverge significantly from the conceptual images released last autumn. Critics have dismissively likened the structure to a "flimsy kindergarten fence" and a "garden fence", mocking the discrepancy between the planned and actual implementations. The Finnish Border Guard tried to address these concerns, stating that a barbed wire obstacle would be installed on the unfinished pilot fence.
The ambitious project aims to construct approximately 200 kilometres of fence along the 1,300-kilometre eastern border over the next 3 to 4 years, at an estimated cost of 380 million euros. However, this grand announcement has been met with criticism, scepticism, and outright mockery.
Professor Jussi P. Laine of the University of Eastern Finland and chair of the Western Social Science Association was one of the many critics. He described the fence as a laughable structure that resembles a playground barrier. Having recently visited the border to inspect the pilot fence, he criticised the stark contrast between the fence on the ground and the sketches and renders that the Border Guard had previously publicised.
"I understand that the fence is still a work in progress," Laine remarked, "but I have to wonder about the relationship between the end product and the cost." He also questioned the staggering 380 million euros required for the project, suggesting that a significant portion of the costs would be allocated to infrastructure associated with the fence.
Critics also noted that the fence would not be capable of preventing potential military invasions. The project was initially justified as a response to hybrid operations, where Finland could be pressured with mass immigration. Interior Minister Krista Mikkonen had stated that the fence would help with border control in such situations. However, the current pilot fence's flimsy design and sizeable gaps have raised doubts about its effectiveness in such scenarios.
Laine has criticised the project as cost-ineffective and poorly justified. He pointed out that before the war in Ukraine, few politicians considered the fence project a sensible initiative. The conversation shifted when Belarus began pushing migrants from third countries towards Poland and Lithuania.
According to Laine, the fence project discussion eventually confused two separate issues. "When the decision was made, it was about fear of Russia, not about the possibility of using migrants as a tool in hybrid warfare," he said. "The project was pushed through in an atmosphere of fear."
Laine argues that while the fence may be beneficial to the Border Guard, it is unlikely to prevent immigrants from entering the country. "All it does is create a funnel effect, where people try to cross the border in more difficult places," he told Iltasanomat.
The pilot fence, which cost six million euros to construct for a few kilometres, is now in the spotlight. Laine suggests that a pause should be taken upon the completion of the pilot to assess the fence's benefits and drawbacks.
In his view, the government should reconsider the border fence project. Laine has urged the upcoming government to consult with a broader range of experts on this matter, as the current approach appears to be heavily reliant on the Border Guard's perspective.
The Finnish border fence has stirred a wave of ridicule that could become a political storm. The project, initially cloaked in an aura of necessity and practical amount of academic research, and it rarely points to the effectiveness of such physical barriers in preventing unwanted crossings.
"Let's consider the famous US-Mexico border wall," Laine suggests. "It has cost billions, yet it hasn't significantly diminished illegal immigration. Instead, it has led to a 'funnel effect,' causing people to attempt crossing at more dangerous points, often leading to tragic consequences. This same effect could be seen on the Finnish-Russian border."
The government's persistence in pushing the fence project forward despite these glaring concerns has raised eyebrows among many. There is a sense that the fence is more about political posturing than a practical solution to a complex problem.
Another point of ridicule is the aesthetic of the fence. The pictures of the border fence pilot project released by the Border Guard are a far cry from the initial concept drawings. With descriptions ranging from a "flimsy kindergarten fence" to a "garden fence," the reality seems to be a let-down. This discrepancy between expectations and reality has sparked an outpouring of mockery on social media.
The Finnish Border Guard argues that the pilot fence is not yet finished and will be topped with a barbed wire barrier. However, this has done little to quell the criticism. Many question the logic of investing €380 million in a project that seems to offer little return on investment, not to mention potential breaches of humanitarian principles.
The hasty decision to build the fence was made amid fears of Russia using mass migration as a hybrid warfare tactic, similar to what Belarus did with Poland and Lithuania. However, the discussion has since shifted towards a potential military threat. Here too, the effectiveness of the fence is questionable. As Professor Laine put it: "If it comes to a military threat, the fence will be of no use. A tank, if it is to come, will come through that fence."
The parliament and all parties approved the border fence project prepared and put forward by Marin’s government last year.