Helsinki said on Thursday it would close four of its nine border crossings with Russia from Saturday following a sudden rise in the number of asylum seekers crossing its eastern frontier.
The four border crossings – at Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala in southeastern Finland – are normally the busiest points of travel between the two countries.
“Our aim is to use barrier devices to prevent entry,” the Border Guard’s head of international affairs Matti Pitkaniitty told reporters, adding that Finland’s measures were a response to changes in Russia’s border policy.
Nearly 100 asylum seekers had entered Finland from Russia on Friday by midday, officials said.
From Saturday asylum seekers arriving via Russia will only be allowed to hand in their applications at two northern border crossings, at Salla and Vartius, Pitkaniitty said.
Some 300 asylum seekers, mostly from Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Syria, have arrived in Finland this week, prompting the Finnish government to accuse Russia of deliberately funnelling people to the border, a charge Moscow has denied.
Finland, a European Union member, angered Moscow this year when it joined the Nato military alliance after decades of non-alignment following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Finland shares a 1,340-km (833-mile) border with Russia that also serves as the EU’s external border.
Finland’s president said on Wednesday the rise appeared to be Russian revenge for Helsinki’s defence cooperation with the United States, an assertion also dismissed by the Kremlin.
Finland’s ombudsman for non-discrimination said on Thursday Helsinki still had a duty under international treaties and EU law to allow asylum seekers to seek protection.