Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) and Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) on Wednesday briefed the media on how the government has decided to respond to a surge in asylum applicants arriving across the eastern border. Including the temporary closure of several border-crossing points, the response has been driven by a concern over internal security, reveals a government memo published on Wednesday. (Seppo Samuli – Lehtikuva)

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THE GOVERNMENT of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) on Wednesday released a memo casting light on its reasoning for temporarily closing several border-crossing points on the border between Finland and Russia.

The memo points to a police estimate according to which people crossing the border will likely include people who pose a threat to internal security.

The arrivals, it highlights, could include people with a history of war or other crimes, military personnel disguised as civilians and radicalised people.

“The high number of [asylum] applicants also makes it possible to deliberately send individuals or groups that threaten national security to Finland. It is probable that the phenomenon will cause insecurity in society,” the memo reads.

More than 700 asylum applicants have crossed the eastern border into Finland between August and November. The memo points out that the number of arrivals has increased sharply particularly in recent weeks, with the weekly total jumping from only 32 for 6–12 November to 527 for 13–19 November.

“The current rate of weekly arrivals would translate to around 15,000–20,000 asylum seekers entering the country across the eastern border on an annual basis. It is also noteworthy that weaponisation increases the risks associated with the arrivals. This is not a case of an external factor causing genuine and spontaneous flow of migrants.”

The government identified three factors that have contributed to the phenomenon: the kind of international crime that is typically linked to illegal immigration, active marketing on social media, and active and permissive facilitation by Russian authorities.

“That the phenomenon is underpinned by organised crime and corruption by Russian authorities does not mean that the phenomenon has not been simultaneously harnessed for Russia’s broader foreign-policy purposes,” the memo reads.

The number of people applying for international protection at the eastern border is expected to continue rising faster than the applications can be processed at the border, according to the memo. Already the current situation has tied up the resources of border officials at the expense of other responsibilities.

“The Border Guard’s capacity to register applications for international protection has diminished at the border. Standard procedures no longer suffice to weigh up the preconditions for entry and register the arrivals,” the memo states.

Were the situation to drag on, it would probably have an impact also on the capacity of the Finnish Immigration Service (Migri).

The memo was drawn up based on input from experts at the Finnish Border Guard, National Police Board, National Bureau of Investigation (KRP), Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) and Migri.

The Finnish government has responded to the surge in asylum applicants by temporarily closing all but the northernmost crossing on the eastern border, Raja-Jooseppi.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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