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Finland accuses Russia of flooding borders with Middle Eastern migrants in retaliation for cooperation with US

Monday November 20, 2023

Migrants arriving from Russia board a van to be transported to the Joutseno Reception Centre at the Nuijamaa border station in Lappeenranta, Finland, on Thursday. (Vesa Moilanen/Lehtikuva via AP)

Finland has accused Russia of flooding its borders with migrants from the Middle East and Africa over its decision to increase defense cooperation with the United States, a claim which Moscow denies.

As many as 300 migrants from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria have arrived in Finland this week, Reuters reported, citing the Finnish Border Guard. The arrivals have prompted Finland to erect barricades at the border with Russia to stop the migrants from crossing freely into the country.

The razor-wire barriers were put up Friday around midnight at the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala border posts in southeast Finland, border officials said.

After two people breached the barriers and crossed into Finland, border authorities said the barriers would be improved so that similar crossings would be impossible.

Migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, have arrived in the Nordic nation without proper documentation and have sought asylum after allegedly being helped by Russian authorities to travel to the heavily controlled border zone.

Nearly all the migrants have arrived at the border zone on bicycles that Finnish and Russian media reports say were provided and sold to them.

Moscow has denied the claims about being behind the flood of migrants. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russian authorities "deeply regret that the leadership of Finland chose the path of deliberate distancing from the previously good nature of our bilateral relations."

The Finland-Russia land border serves as the European Union’s external frontier and runs a total of 832 miles (1,340 kilometers), mostly through thick forests in the south, reaching the rugged landscape in the Arctic north. There are currently nine crossing points, with one dedicated to rail travel only.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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