Life along the closed land border between Finland and Russia
The Finnish authorities ordered the closures for "national security" reasons. NGOs condemn the measure, saying it is putting the lives of hundreds of asylum seekers at risk. Our correspondent Julián López travelled to the heart of the affected area to hear people’s different points of view.
Finnish authorities accuse Russia of channelling illegal migrants to the border and assisting them with money, food, accommodation, or transportation in what they call a "hybrid attack" against Finland. Finland recently joined NATO and has vehemently opposed Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Russia denies the accusations.
Finland claims some 500 illegal migrants crossed its eastern border in November, up from previous monthly averages of around 30 people.
The Finnish government has called these arrivals "a serious threat to national security and public order".
Many of those illegal migrants are now sheltered in Joutseno, a nearby village, while their asylum requests are examined. The reception centre for asylum seekers is located barely 10 kilometres from the Russian border. About 100 people are currently living here. The authorities did not allow us access to the facility, nor have they been willing to grant us any interviews, however some residents did agree to share their stories.
Nabil, from Morocco, confirmed that “the (Russian) police and army helped us. It is good for us because it is so easy to come here".
Asylum seekers can´t be expelled while their demands are under examination. This can take up to two years. No pushbacks to Russia appear to have been reported.
We also visited the headquarters of the Finnish Border Guard in Helsinki. Marek Saareks, an Assistant Head of Department there, said that the country's sea and air borders remain