Tuesday

16th Apr 2024

Oslo: all quiet on Russia border, after Finland closes crossings

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Norway has confirmed its border with Russia is so far calm and unchanged, in the wake of Finland accusing Moscow of shuffling irregular migrants across the Finnish/Russian border.

The Norwegian ministry of justice and public security on Friday (17 November) said that their border with Russia at Storksog has not experienced any changes.

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"We are monitoring the situation closely, and are prepared to make extra measures if necessary," said the Norwegian ministry, in an email.

Olso's response follows moves by Finland on Thursday to close four border points with Russia, after seeing a rise in asylum applications.

Finnish border officials say fewer than 300 people from the Middle East and Africa have crossed since September.

But Finland says it is prepared to go further, should the pressure escalate, along its 1,340km border with Russia.

Estonia is also issuing warnings and has accused Russia of stoking tensions by sending asylum seekers into EU member states.

And Latvia is issuing multi-million euro tenders to finalise a fence along its 284km border with Russia, as part of a broader security initiative.

The EU has called such attempts by Moscow as a political ploy to destabilise member states as part of a hybrid attack known in EU parlance as the 'instrumentalisation of migrants'.

"Russia's instrumentalisation of migrants is shameful," said EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, in a telephone call with Finland's prime minister on Thursday.

The European Commission says EU states are best placed to define "how to protect the external borders".

The Brussels-executive also says that this must be done in full compliance with fundamental rights.

But such statements on rights are also likely to be glossed over.

Instrumentalisation

Similar movements of people from Belarus into Poland, Latvia and Lithuania, have also seen policies and laws enacted that have led to illegal pushbacks and violence along the borders.

Almost 50 corpses have been recovered at Poland's border with Belarus over the past two years, says Polish NGO Grupa Granica.

And the UN refugee agency described Latvian legal reforms over the summer to tighten asylum in response to border incursions from Belarus as illegal under both international and EU law.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International said the new Lithuanian laws effectively tramples on asylum rights. The European Court of Justice has also faulted Lithuania over its laws.

Despite those warnings of abuse and rights violations, the European Commission has spoken out in defence of Lithuania and Latvia.

Von der Leyen made similar appraisals in 2020, when she described Greece as "Europe's shield" after thousands of people attempted to cross in from Turkey.

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The European Commission has defended policies enacted by Latvia and Lithuania to stem migration at their shared borders with Belarus — despite widespread criticism that the Baltic EU states are trampling on asylum rights.

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