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Finland’s Border Closures: A Humanitarian Crisis in the Making?

The closure of all border crossings between Finland and Russia has raised concerns within the Council of Europe, particularly regarding the potential plight of migrants left vulnerable in harsh winter conditions.

In a letter to the Interior Ministry, Dunja Mijatovic, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, emphasized the importance of Helsinki protecting the rights of asylum-seekers, even with the border closures. She expressed concern that the complete shutdown of the Eastern land border could impede the ability for legitimate asylum claims. Mijatovic urged Finland to uphold its responsibilities under international law, cautioning against violations of the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsion. She also highlighted the risks faced by migrants if they were forcibly returned to regions where they may encounter persecution or danger.

The worsening weather conditions have heightened worries about the well-being of migrants, who are exposed to considerable health and safety risks. Mijatovic has called on the Finnish government to reveal its strategies for protecting these vulnerable individuals during the winter period.

The decision to close the last remaining border crossing came after the closure of seven other checkpoints due to a surge in asylum-seekers. Finnish authorities aleged Moscow's involvement in deliberately channeling migrants towards the border, attributing it to a strategy aiming to destabilize the country. However, the Kremlin refuted these allegations as groundless.

During these closures, asylum-seekers were redirected to seaports and airports for processing. Poland offered to deploy a team of "military advisors" to the border area, proposing expertise in border security. While Finland claimed to be unaware of this offer, the Kremlin cautioned against any military presence along the Russian border, deeming it an unjustifiable concentration of military units.

The context of Finland's recent inclusion in the US-led NATO alliance, deviating from its longstanding neutrality, further complicates the situation. Russia, while stating that Finland doesn't pose a direct threat, has vowed to respond to any actions that compromise its security.

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