Minister of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) reacted at a government news conference about restrictions to traffic across the eastern border in Helsinki on Tuesday, 28 November 2023. Rantanen told YLE that the decision to temporarily close all border-crossing points on the border is based on an official assessment about the possibility that Russia expands its hybrid campaign against Finland. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)

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MINISTER of the Interior Mari Rantanen (PS) revealed on YLE A-studio on Tuesday that the government decision to close the entire eastern border for two weeks is founded on an official assessment about the possibility that Russia could expand its hybrid campaign against Finland.

“We’ve been informed by authorities that the potential threat is pretty great,” she remarked.

Finland, she added, is being increasingly marketed as a destination in third countries.

“There are package tours to Finland that include a visa and even a bicycle. I’m sure third countries have plenty of people who’d be interested in coming to Europe,” she stated, hinting that up to millions of asylum seekers could potentially look to enter Finland.

“Anyone can go online and look up how many people there are in some African countries. The potential [number] is really high. It’s also good to keep in mind that, according to estimates, Russia alone has some 10 million illegal residents,” said Rantanen.

She added that the higher the number of arrivals, the higher the likelihood that they also include people who pose a threat to national security.

“We witnessed this in 2015–2016, when dangerous people came to Europe as part of a fairly large group of migrants.”

The government announced yesterday all border-crossing points on the eastern border will be closed between 30 November to 13 December. Also asylum applicants will therefore have to submit their claims at ports and airports, although the government acknowledged in a memo attached to the decision that there should be an effort to identify and transport people in the most vulnerable positions to facilities intended for arrivals.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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