Since the beginning of November, more than 400 asylum seekers have arrived at Finnish border crossings from Russia, compared to the usual ten or so a month. Helsinki accuses Moscow of orchestrating this influx of migrants and has closed almost all its border crossings. As a result, more and more migrants are heading for northern Russia, despite the cold, where a crossing point is expected to remain open for the next few days.
Between November 1 and 17,– hailing from Syria, Yemen, Iraq or Somalia – arrived at border crossings in southeastern Finland to request asylum. They came from Russia without Schengen visas or residence permits. This figure is much higher than usual, according to the Finnish border guards who noticed an increase in asylum seekers arriving since August.
On social media, videos show people, often on bicycles, heading for the border posts with Finland.
Recent developments in Finland:
Over the past few days, Russia has sent an increasing number of migrants to Finland’s borders. Finland has closed several border crossing points due to the authorities’ threat assessment.
A video surfaced of the Russian operation. 1/
— Emil Kastehelmi (@emilkastehelmi)
Video posted on Twitter on November 19, 2023 and filmed in Russia, around 40 km from the Vartius border crossing.
Finland has accused Russia of masterminding the surge of migrants, a sentiment shared by the. They say the move is meant to destabilise the country, as retaliation for in April and aligning with the United States on defence issues. The Finnish Prime Minister emphasised that “Russia is instrumentalising migrants” in what amounts to a “hybrid attack”.
Finnish border guards agree. “Previously the Russians didn’t let people cross their border crossing point to Finland without required travel documents to Finland, but now they have.The phenomenon at the eastern border involves elements of organised illegal immigration facilitated by international crime including active marketing in social media,” Commander Pentti Alapelto of the Finnish Border Guard told FRANCE 24.
Russia has rejected these accusations.
‘We give [border guards] $500 per person to let them continue their way to Finland from the Russian-Finnish crossing’
On November 22, we spoke on WhatsApp with Ahmed (not his real name), whose number appears on videos online filmed near the border. He claims to be in Turkey, where he is organising safe passage for migrants between Russia and the Finnish border.
I help people by sending them by car to the border in agreement with the Russian police. After that, I give the Russian border police $500 [€457] per person to cross, and the police give them bicycles.
No, there was no agreement with the border police [before November]. One of my men working on the Russian-Finnish border told me. I expect this is to put pressure on Europe with immigrants.
I charge $1,200 [€1,097] per person: $500 for the border guard, $200 per person for the driver – because I am the owner of the car – and $500 for myself.
I sent about 200 people to the border with Russia in just 10 days [since November 12]. They are mainly Syrians, Iraqis, Tunisians, Moroccans, Turks, Yemenis and Lebanese. Of the people I delivered, some of them were in Russia, the others were in Belarus, and some of them came from Georgia or Turkey.
We have not been able to independently verify this smuggler’s claims. However, the “agreement” he describes with the Russians is consistent with the accusations made by the Finns. In addition, in a conversation on a Telegram channel, a man claimed to be in contact with someone who had managed to cross the border after paying $100 to a Russian border guard.
In addition, videos filmed near the border and posted on social networks show people on bicycles. The Reuters news agency has also published photos of rows of bikes at various border posts (for example aton November 23).
Crossing the border on foot is prohibited, so many have chosen to take bikes to bypass this restriction. Last week, however, Finland barred entry by bicycle.
Droga przez FI wciąż reklamowana, choć z zastrzeżeniem, że szybko może zostać zamknięta. Zapraszani na szlak są migranci przebywający w RU i na BY, bez marszruty, a ceny miałyby być konkurencyjne. Droga miałaby być dostępna dla rodzin, ale nie więcej niż 3 dzieci na dorosłego…
— Klara Maria (@klarasoltan)
The video on the left, posted on Twitter on November 17, 2023, was taken in Russia, just 3 km from the Nuijamaa border crossing. It also shows people on bicycles.
Almost all border crossings closed
To counter the influx of undocumented migrants, Finlandon the night of November 17, and on the night of November 23. Only one crossing point in the north remains open for asylum seekers.
On Friday November 24, “Ahmed” told us that he would continue to send people to the Finnish border as long as there was an open crossing point.
On November 22, our team spoke to a Syrian whose two relatives recently tried to reach the Finnish border: “One of my friends was able to enter Finland five days ago. He paid $350 for a 12-hour journey from Moscow to a crossing point, then had to pay $300 [€274] for the bike.” His brother, on the other hand, was unable to cross the border.
We also spoke to two men who have not been able to enter Finland either, due to the phased closure of border crossings. One of them, who did not want to give his nationality, said that he had paid $700 (€640) to travel from Saint Petersburg to the border a few days ago, to no avail.
Another, a Syrian, says he paid $100 to travel from Moscow to Saint Petersburg with four people from Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Somalia. Once there, he paid a further $300 to travel north by taxi. At the time of writing, he had still not managed to cross the border. He told us that it was -25°C where he was.
‘There is a substantial chance of people freezing to death’
The, a Russian NGO that helps migrants and refugees, told us about Finland’s decision to close its border crossings.
This decision will impact a wide variety of people. First of all, it will severe connections between families that live in both countries. Secondly, it will trap refugees from Syria, Yemen, Somalia, etc. that have close to zero chances of obtaining asylum in Russia inside the country. Finland doing this bypasses the problem of dealing with asylum seekers and processing their application. If you have zero asylum seekers because they can’t enter your country, then you don’t have to provide asylum to anyone.
People are the Belarus-EU border. These asylum seekers need to be treated with respect and put out of the danger of freezing to death.near the northern crossing points. There is a substantial chance of people freezing to death as this November is very cold and we’ve seen such incidents during the situation on
We know that dozens of refugees were detained by the police, tried and sentenced to deportation because they are now illegally in Russia with expired visas and no asylum.
One of the Syrians we spoke to also expressed this fear: “At the moment, I can’t tell you which village I’m in, because if the Russians find out there are migrants here, they’ll come and get us and send us back to Syria.”
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