HELSINKI – All quiet on the Eastern front?

With organised and systematic efforts to enter the EU across the 1,340-kilometre-border between Russia and Finland steadily increasing since 2016, there could be a refugee crisis waiting to happen. And although all eyes are on the Balkans and southern regions, this time it may well come from up north.

Even if numbers are small compared to the ones in the Mediterranean, border guards on both sides are reporting on increased activity.

“Finland seems to be a more favoured destination than the Baltics. Among those trying are Russian citizens, but also people from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran,” said Markku Hassinen, the Deputy Chief of the Finnish Border Guard.

Finland has updated its plans on how to deal with a possible growth in refugee numbers from the East. The country has 16 border guard stations and 18 coast guard stations. Technical surveillance systems are being improved.

However, in case of a real influx, Finland would not be able to cope. For now, the country continues to put a great deal of trust in Frontex, the European Border Guard and Coast Guard Agency.

“If the situation gets worse, we can take advantage of European support, at least in some form. That’s why the system is being built and that’s why we are part of it,” said Hassinen.

A refugee scenario on the Finnish-Russian border also has a sensitive and uncomfortable political angle. At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, a large number of asylum seekers appeared at Finnish border posts.

By escorting people to the border, Russia signalled that it has the means and the leverage to destabilise the situation and put pressure on Finland and the European Union. (Pekka Vänttinen | EURACTIV.com)

 

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