A recent flow of people crossed the border between the two countries this week, aiming to enter Europe. If Finland is not part of the Schengen area, Norway is and is already on alert.
Almost all asylum seekers who have arrived in Finland in recent days arrive in a very special way: pushing bicycles, and mostly at young ages. With -22 degrees Celsius, and among the snow already falling at the pole the eastern border of Finland has seen a significant increase in flow.
“Bikes are like any other object, which are abandoned in piles at the border or on the Finnish side,” Jouko Kinnunen, commander of the Vartius border post, told Finnish media outlet Yle News. The entry of people on bicycles has reached such a point that Finland ended up banning them a few days ago, both on foot and in vehicles. Despite this, 20 people on bicycles arrived in Vartius on Tuesday.
“We are investigating the situation,” Finnish border guards said in a brief statement released Monday evening. after learning that 35 migrants had arrived by bicycle, in the extreme cold. People came from Syria, Afghanistan and Iran. It is currently -22 degrees Celsius in the remote border town of Salla in eastern Lapland.
Although it is not yet clear who is transporting asylum seekers from the Russian side to the border, border guards are controlling who can and cannot enter the area. Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo told reporters on Monday that there was “This indicates that this is an organized Russian effort.”
According to the Vartius border guard, Russia follows the terms of an old agreement with Finland, which stipulated that the border could only be crossed by vehicles, including bicycles. Border authorities in the region have been in contact with their Russian counterparts, to clarify that all entry into the country will now be by motorized vehicles and not by bicycles. Regardless, negotiations on the issue continue. Meanwhile, the bikes are quickly abandoned by asylum seekers, while others sell them.
This is not the first time that migrants have arrived en masse by bicycle in Finland. During the fall and winter of 2015, Hundreds of asylum seekers have crossed Finland’s eastern border by bicycle. Crossing the border by bicycle is then prohibited and asylum seekers begin to use obsolete cars, purchased in Russia and abandoned at the border.
An article seen on Telegram by EUobserver would prove that Moscow is behind all this. “The Russian army welcomes you. “He lets you buy a bike for $250, then he tells you where to go” says the message, written in Arabic, on November 18, on a Telegram account with around 7,500 subscribers, most of them Syrian.
Due to the intense cold in the region, at the Salla border post two special heated tents have been installed provided by the Lapland emergency services and intended to deal with cases of hypothermia.
Finland closed four of its checkpoints to Russia on Friday, as the number of migrants without a valid Schengen visa increased in recent weeks. So far, around 500 asylum seekers have arrived at the eastern border in November.
From Norway, the northernmost border of the Schengen area, they see all this with concern. “We are closely following what is happening in Finland and the measures we will take there” » Finnmark Police Chief of Staff Tarjei Sirma-Tellefsen told the Barents Observer on Monday afternoon, after the Storskog checkpoint closed for the day. “There is no way we can anticipate the emergency measures we will take at the border,” he said.