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Prime Minister’s announcement on border security

Government Communications Department
Publication date 23.11.2023 17.08 | Published in English on 23.11.2023 at 17.56
Prime Minister's Announcement

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo made an announcement to the Parliament on border security 23 November 2023.

Mr Speaker,

There is a serious situation affecting border security at Finland's eastern border. As of yesterday evening, 803 third-country nationals have arrived in Finland from Russia without a visa or residence permit since the start of August. This is organised activity that affects our national security. In recent weeks, there has been a sharp increase in the number of people arriving at the border, and the situation has become harder to manage.

The difficult situation began in Southeast Finland. The Government decided to close certain border crossing points and to centralise applications for international protection for three months starting on 18 November 2023. In line with the decision, the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala border crossing points were closed, and applications for international protection were centralised to the border crossing points at Vartius and Salla. The Government’s decision to close the border crossing points in accordance with the Border Guard Act has brought the situation under control at the border crossing points in Southeast Finland and North Karelia.

Unfortunately, however, these measures were not enough to stop what is happening at our eastern border. On the contrary, there are increasing signs that the situation is getting worse. The Russian authorities have not intervened in these activities, but are rather facilitating them.

People have been transported to the border crossing points farther north. The situation has been the most difficult this week in Kainuu and Lapland. Over the course of the week, a total of 238 people have arrived at the border crossing points at Vartius and Salla, which is highly exceptional.

I went to the Vartius border crossing station in Kuhmo on Monday. I wanted to see for myself what was happening at our eastern border and how the authorities were handling the situation. The personnel of the Border Guard, the Defence Forces, Customs and the police are competent and work professionally, calmly and in a way that inspires confidence. The work of the authorities, and good cooperation between the authorities, deserves praise.

It is the Government’s duty to provide the authorities with the tools and support needed to deal with the situation they are facing. The Border Guard and other authorities are well prepared to implement these decisions.

Yesterday, on 22 November 2023, the Government decided to close the border crossing points at Kuusamo, Vartius and Salla. The decision will enter into force on Thursday at midnight and will remain in force until 23 December.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will make further decisions as needed.

We will do what Finland has always done: we will work, above all, to promote the security and wellbeing of Finland and the Finnish people. This decision is not intended as an attack against anyone, it is about strengthening our territorial integrity.

Mr Speaker,

The safety of the Finnish people, public order and national security are the Government’s top priorities. Finland’s security environment has changed profoundly since Russia launched its illegal war of aggression on 24 February 2022.

Instrumentalised migration at the eastern border, and measures to manage it, must be examined within this framework. Our national response must be clear and strong. Finland cannot be influenced, Finland cannot be destabilised.

Russia has been trying for years to sow discord, undermine unity in Europe and weaken the Western alliance and the international rules-based order. What is happening now at the EU border is one act in this play. 

Instrumentalisation of migration is a typical tool for exerting influence. Its aim may be to destabilise Finland by creating uncertainty and causing divisions in our society.

At the same time, Russia wants to remind Finland that as a destination country for instrumentalised migration, Finland is dependent on and vulnerable to Russia’s actions.

A more general aim is to undermine Western support for Ukraine by drawing attention to the ongoing war.

Mr Speaker,

From a comprehensive point of view, and given the tense security situation, the decisions we have now made and the measures taken at the eastern border have been considered justified and proportionate.

The decisions are necessary and are being constantly reviewed as the situation develops. The decisions can also be reversed if the situation ends and the restrictions are no longer needed to safeguard the public order and national security.

Restrictive measures affect ordinary people and their everyday lives. That is another reason the Government chose to take such drastic measures from the outset – we must put an end to these activities.

The situation is being monitored ceaselessly by the highest political leaders, the security authorities and the actors that support them. Finland is relying on European mechanisms. Finland has also kept its international defence partners up to date about the situation. The message and support from our international partners have been strong.

We have communicated with Russia about the situation to the extent that this has been possible, through diplomatic channels and normal contacts at the border. Russia has caused the situation and can also put an end to it.

Finland will continue to be open about its decision-making on the matter, the authorities are communicating openly and the media have had free access to the border crossing points, for example.

The Government and the authorities are also prepared for the possibility that the situation could deteriorate. If necessary, we will make full use of the legal means available. At the same time, we will ensure legal protection and look after vulnerable people.

We will also ensure that it is possible to apply for international protection in the manner referred to in the Border Guard Act.

Mr Speaker,

Without national security, and without maintaining national security, we cannot guarantee human rights.

It is important that we discuss the situation and the decisions from all perspectives. But we must not end up in a situation where, as a result of external pressure and psychological influence, we view national security and human rights as opposites of one another, and the discussion turns into a polarising internal conflict. This would benefit Russia and Russia alone, not the people arriving at the border, not us Finns or people living in Finland.

Russia’s narrative is that closing the border is an “anti-Russia policy” intended to complicate the everyday lives of people living between Finland and Russia.

It is not about that. The aim of each decision is to return to a normal situation at the border as soon as possible. That is also in Russia’s interests.

In Finland, we have been prepared for the fact that, as a member of NATO, we may be subjected to various hostilities. This comes as no surprise. We are also prepared for the possibility that the situation could drag on.

In this important issue of national security, we also have a unified Parliament. I thank the opposition parties for supporting the Government's decisions and our authorities.

With this in mind, I would like to repeat: Finland cannot be influenced, Finland cannot be destabilised.