Finland says Russia leads asylum seekers to its border

By Anne Kauranen and Essi Lehto

HELSINKI (Reuters) -Finland on Tuesday accused Russia of funnelling asylum-seekers to its border and said it will take the necessary action to prevent a mass inflow of people and protect its national security.

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told a press conference that Russia had changed its practice by allowing people access to the border without required travel documents.

“It is clear that these people are helped and they are also being escorted or transported to the border by border guards,” Orpo, of Finland’s conservative National Coalition Party, said.

While still small, the number of arrivals from Russia had jumped this week, according to Finland’s border guard authority.

Around 60 asylum seekers came via Russia since early Monday, the authority said. This contrasts with 91 people arriving without required documents from Aug. 1 to Nov. 12.

Finland last year adopted legislation that allows its border authority to exceptionally stop receiving asylum applications at certain crossing points in case the Nordic nation became a target of mass immigration orchestrated by another country.

NATO member Finland shares a 1,340-km (833-mile) border with Russia which also serves as the European Union’s external border.

“The message from us in the government is clear in that we want to secure the safety of our eastern border,” Orpo said.

Finland’s interior ministry will prepare a proposal that could allow officials to limit border traffic or the closing of some crossing points, Minister of Interior Mari Rantanen said earlier.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is in charge of Russian border security, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It’s not about the number of asylum seekers, but about Finland’s national security and the change in Russia’s activities,” Finance Minister Riikka Purra said in a post on X.

Rantanen and Purra both belong to Finland’s anti-immigration Finns Party, the second-largest party in Orpo’s coalition.

(Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Essi Lehto, editing by Terje Solsvik and Angus MacSwan)