NewsNATO barbed wire. In response to migrant attacks, barricades are hastily assembled

NATO barbed wire. In response to migrant attacks, barricades are hastily assembled

The situation on the border of Finland with Russia
The situation on the border of Finland with Russia
Images source: © PAP | JANNE KURONEN
ed. MCZ
2:03 PM EST, November 24, 2023

In a span of two weeks, the eastern border of Finland, which was known for years as a beacon of cross-border cooperation with Russia, has begun to take on the form of a new "Iron Curtain." Changes are visible, not only symbolically but materially. The setup of the so-called "NATO barbed wire" is underway.

This forthcoming Friday at 6 pm Eastern Time, three out of the four remaining open Finnish border crossings to Russia will be closing. The last operational checkpoint will be the Raja-Jooseppi base situated in Lapland.

Border guards and conscripts have started hastily constructing barricades with razor wire, a formidable obstacle to breach. This type of wire is colloquially referred to as "NATO barbed wire".

Closing the entire border declared as "unfeasible"

This northernmost road crossing from Finland to Russia, nestled in the wilderness and bearing the name of a local hermit, is located above the Arctic Circle. It's about 217 miles north of Rovaniemi and approximately 155 miles south of Murmansk.

The Finnish government initially intended to seal the entire border with Russia. However, as highlighted by the leading national newspaper "Helsingin Sanomat", this plan proved to be "unfeasible in practice".

A surged influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo admitted at a press conference in Helsinki, "We have undertaken what currently appears to be the most sensible and feasible."

Last week, the southeastern stretch of the border, spanning 833 miles, was sealed off. Yet, this hasn't stemmed the influx of illegal migrants originating from the Middle East and Africa via Russia. Russian authorities are "facilitating this action," remarked the Finnish Prime Minister.

Bicycle convoys of asylum seekers persist

The Finnish authorities find themselves in a tough spot, attempting to balance human rights - the right to seek asylum - with national security. Despite this, and the harsh arctic winter conditions in the north, asylum seekers on bicycles evidently continue to reach the border.

"Please, let's not be naive, Honorable Chancellor," advises the "Ilta-Sanomat".

The Chancellor of Justice, a constitutional institution responsible for supervising high-ranking officials and advising on draft legal matters, expressed skepticism over the government's more stringent previous plan.

The plan, previously undisclosed, was laid bare by the press. It involves an entire shutdown of the border with Russia, encompassing all border crossings.

The Chancellor maintained that this course of action may deprive migrants of their right to seek asylum, violating constitutional norms, EU law, and the European Convention of Human Rights. The Chancellor then added that existing border access at Raja-Jooseppi suffices.

Surviving the storm at -22 degrees Fahrenheit

The Lapland border crossing sits in the Arctic zone, where winter conditions are the norm and temperatures frequently plunge below -22 degrees Fahrenheit.

The barrier is typically raised and lowered for only four hours per day during the winter.

Finnish border guard officials have begun to warn of the risks suffering by scantily clad migrants arriving from the Russian side under such bitter cold conditions. This poses a threat to their health and life.

"The council of ministers' function is not to scrutinize the work of the chancellery," Prime Minister Orpo conceded on Wednesday evening on Yle TV. This statement justifies the government's decision, providing a nod to the political-legal tradition practiced in Finland.

The Ministry of the Interior stressed in an annex to the government's decision that among those seeking asylum in Finland, there could be individuals posing a threat; these could potentially include those accused of crimes, members of criminal gangs, or civilian soldiers.

The current rate of this phenomenon, i.e., at most a few dozen migrants reaching the Finnish border each day, translates into about 15-20 thousand asylum applicants per year, as delineated in the border guard department's report.

"A stronger Russian response is anticipated"

"Russia respects strength," but Finland's failure to seal its entire border against illegal migrants - even with strong political resolve - is considered a symptom of "Finland's weakness." And as a result, "Russia's response is expected to be even more forceful," according to "Iltalehti".

"We need more wire fences at the border than initially planned. We are preparing for a possible long-term situation", responded the Lapland border guard unit command, as quoted by Yle radio.

In November, roughly 700 people lacking proper documentation, primarily from Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq, managed to reach the Finnish eastern border.

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