Finland said on Thursday that it would keep its eastern border with Russia closed for another month amid an ongoing dispute about increased numbers of migrants in the area.
The relationship between Finland and Russia, which share an 830-mile border, deteriorated after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Late last year, Finland closed all of its land crossings with Russia, accusing Moscow of facilitating a potentially destabilizing influx of migrants mostly from Africa and the Middle East.
The government of Finland has suggested that Moscow was retaliating for its move to join NATO last year and its support of Ukraine. Russian authorities have called the accusations “unsubstantiated.”
Finland’s government partly reopened the border in December, but quickly closed it again and said the influx of migrants had resumed.
On Thursday, Finland’s government said in a statement that migrant arrivals had stopped but that the risk of a resumed influx remained likely and posed a threat to Finland’s national security.
“It is very likely that Russia’s hybrid influence activities will resume and expand,” Finland’s interior minister, Mari Rantanen, said at a news conference Thursday.
She said that migrants were waiting near the border with Russia in case of a reopening and that the border would remain closed until Feb. 11.
“National security is a critical question for Finland,” Ms. Rantanen said. “It is necessary to continue the border closure.”
The move to close the borders came after about 900 migrants crossed the border between Finland and Russia to apply for asylum in November, a sharp increase compared with previous months. The Finnish authorities have argued that a much higher number of migrants seeking asylum puts immigration services under pressure and increases the risk that “radicalized” people could enter.
Ms. Rantanen acknowledged that the situation was “very difficult” for dual citizens and Russian citizens living in Finland who needed to cross the border. She added that the closures were going to be temporary, and not a permanent solution.
Human rights experts have called for Finland to provide more evidence that the closure is necessary, pointing out the country’s obligation under international law to welcome asylum seekers.
Finland has argued that asylum applications can still be received at other entry points, such as the Helsinki airport. But Martin Scheinin, a human rights scholar at the University of Oxford, said that there was no “real and effective way” for that to happen.
“Finland has blocked any actual possibility to approach its authorities at borders,” he said.