Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) spoke to reporters at the Vartius border-crossing point in Kuhmo, Eastern Finland, on Monday, 20 November 2023. Orpo said the government is drawing up further measures in response to what he described as an intensifying phenomenon at the eastern border. (Hannu Huttu – Str / Lehtikuva)


PRIME MINISTER Petteri Orpo (NCP) says it is clear that migrants are being systematically assisted to get to the eastern border of Finland.

“The phenomenon has intensified,” he was quoted telling journalists at the Vartius border-crossing point in Kuhmo, Eastern Finland, on Monday by Helsingin Sanomat. “I wanted to come to the border and see how we’ve prepared or the situation – as well as to give my support to border officials.”

The premier described the situation at the border as highly unusual but declined to comment on whether the government is planning to close additional border-crossing points or the entire eastern border.

The government last week closed the four south-eastern border-crossing points of Imatra, Niirala, Nuijamaa and Vaalimaa until February. The receipt of asylum applications was simultaneously concentrated to two border-crossing points: Vartius in Kuhmo and Salla in Lapland.

“We’re drawing up further measures. And if necessary, we’ll implement them quickly,” said Orpo. “It has been necessary to monitor how the decisions we’ve already made impact the situation. Already they were exceptionally forceful.”

He outlined that the measures have to be carefully devised, proportionate and send a clear message to third countries and Russia.

“We don’t approve of this kind of activity. This is a systematic operation, and we want to put an end to it.”

Orpo added that there is reason to be concerned about the continuing unpredictable behaviour of Russia. “You can’t prepare for everything that’s within the realm of possibility if another country intends to cause confusion and disorder in Finnish society. That’s why we have to prepare for the fact that anything can happen in the future.”

No progress has been made in negotiations through diplomatic channels, according to the prime minister. “It’d be best for everyone if we managed to restore the situation to the level it was before the restrictions.”

The Lapland Border Guard District has reported that 16 asylum seekers arrived at the Vartius border-crossing point and another 35 at the Salla border-crossing point on Monday. The Vartius border-crossing point was closed briefly a couple of times also yesterday in order to calm down the situation, according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Captain Jouko Kinnunen from the Lapland Border Guard District told STT on Monday that Russian officials are operating in violation of joint agreements and brought nine people to the border on Monday. They were registered as asylum applicants in Finland.

Although he confirmed that there have been more discrepancies than usual in the documents of asylum applicants, he described the overall situation as calm.

“We’re well able to guarantee the border’s inviolability in the terrain. We’re prepared to uphold general order and security at the border-crossing point by solidifying structures at the border,” he said to the news agency.

Members of the Finnish Defence Forces have assisted in erecting temporary obstacles at the border.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT