No more asylum seekers to Barents Finland

Wed, 03/23/2016 - 18:07 By Arina Ulyanova, Murmansk State Humanities University

The flow of asylum seekers going to Barents Finland through Murmansk Oblast has stopped. In March, no refugees were registered at the Raja-Jooseppi and Salla crossing points, show statistics of the Finnish Border Guard.

Migrants from the Arab countries began their journey to northern Finland last autumn as the situation in the Middle East became critical. In November, 261 asylum seekers crossed the Russian-Finnish border, while the next month the number increased almost twice, to 433 people. In total, 694 refugees came to Lapland through Murmansk Oblast in 2015.

It is worth noting that the influx of asylum seekers was larger at the Raja-Jooseppi border crossing point last year, compared to the one at Salla (478 and 216 refugees, respectively).

At the beginning of 2016, the influx continued to grow. As many as 489 migrants entered Lapland in January, and 600 migrants came in February. The last group of nine people crossed the border on the 29th of February and since then, no refugees have come to Finland. This sudden traffic halt might be the result of restrictions introduced by the Russian side, as YLE previously reported.

According to local media, the situation with asylum seekers in Murmansk Oblast reached a climax in the first days of March. For example, it was reported about an illegal protest action organized by refugees in Kandalaksha. As the media informed, migrants complained about having been cheated by swindlers who promised to take them to Finland. Several days later, Blogg51 reported with reference to the director of a local hotel that all asylum seekers with their families had left the region.

Meanwhile, Barents Norway, which had experienced a situation similar to Finland’s, has not seen any new refugees for over three months. In the period from September and up to the end of November 2015, more than five thousand asylum seekers entered Norway through the Storskog border crossing point from Murmansk Oblast. However, in late November, Norway toughened its asylum regulations and the flow stopped. Furthermore, Norway started to deport refugees back to Russia on the grounds that they had Russian visas or other documents allowing them to legally stay there.

In January, deportations were temporarily stopped, but already at the beginning of February, Russia expressed its readiness to accept up to 300 asylum seekers. About two weeks later, the first group was sent to Russia by plane, NRK reported.

Currently, there are no asylum seekers coming to neither Barents Finland or Norway.

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