The historically neutral Nordic country of Finland – which shares an 810-mile-long border and history of war with Russia – is currently applying for NATO membership.
Fearing Russian reprisals, and hybrid threats, which could include sending hordes of asylum-seeking migrants to its borders, as Belarus did last year against Poland, Finland is rushing to strengthen its border, reports Reuters.
A member of the European Union (EU), Finland would be an easy target for asylum seekers sent by Russia.
At the moment the forest-covered border zone between the two countries is only marked with signs, plastic lines, and occasionally light wooden fences, used to stop livestock from wandering to the wrong side.
According to EU rules, migrants have the right to ask for asylum at any given entry point to a EU member country.
As part of its urgent plan to protect its sovereignty and deter Russian moves, Finland’s government is working to amend border legislation to allow the building of barriers on its eastern frontier with Russia.
“The aim of the proposed law is to improve the operational capacity of the border guard in responding to the hybrid threats,” Anne Ihanus, a senior adviser at the interior ministry, told AFP.
The new amendments would allow the building of fences, as well as new roads to facilitate border patrolling on the Finnish side.
“What we are aiming to build now is a sturdy fence with a real barrier effect,” said Sanna Palo, director of the Finnish border guards’ legal division.
“Later on, the government will decide on border barriers to the critical zones on the eastern border, on the basis of the Finnish Border Guard’s assessment,” minister of internal affairs Krista Mikkonen said in a statement.
The government’s proposal will also authorize concentrating on processing asylum applications only at specific points of entry.
Just last week, Spain, which is facing a massive flood of migrants from North Africa, and backed by Portugal and Italy, asked NATO to label migration as a ‘hybrid threat.’
“We want an acknowledgment that there are also serious threats coming from the southern flank,” Spain’s chief diplomat said. “Terrorism, cybersecurity, the political use of energy resources and of irregular migration all impinge on our sovereignty,” he said.
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