Finland will fence its border amid an influx of Russians following the military call-up

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Finland will fence its border amid an influx of Russians following the military call-up

Following the conflict in Ukraine, Finland proposes to build a barbed-wire fence separating East and West along its border with Russia, more than 30 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain.
This week, the potential NATO member revealed strong parliamentary support for replacing its wooden fences, which were primarily built to prevent animals from crossing the 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border, with stronger walls to keep off Russians and migrants.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters in Helsinki, “Hopefully the work can start as soon as feasible.”

Following President Vladimir Putin’s mobilisation order, Finland experienced an inflow of Russians in September before tightening controls and severely restricting their admission.

The majority of border traffic occurs in southeast Finland, where the Finnish border guard estimates that between 80 and 160 miles (130 to 260 kilometres) of barriers must be constructed.

The planned new fence on Europe’s longest border with Russia is a tall, strong metal fence with barbed wire on top and a road running next to it, in contrast to the cattle barriers.

The project, which is expected to cost hundreds of millions of euros, will begin with building a short pilot fence and be finished in three to four years.

The new barrier wouldn’t stretch the full length of the border, much of which is inhospitable wooded terrain distant from settlements. Still, it would aid in the detection of significant border movements and concentrate migrants in more manageable, smaller regions.

Although the initiative has governmental backing in Marin, experts have questioned its objectives.

A professor who specialises in Russia’s border issues, Olga Davydova-Minguet, told AFP that she believes the barrier “shows an emotional reaction to the war.”

Although the Finnish border serves as a physical barrier between the East and the West, Jussi Laine, a professor of human geography at the University of Eastern Finland, described it as “a highly pragmatic and useful border.”

“Children may have been going to school on the Finnish side, with the parents living on the other side”, he told AFP.

Since the 1990s, efforts have been made to transform the Russian-Finnish border into a “typical European frontier” with initiatives including electronic visas and additional train connections between eastern Finland and Saint Petersburg.

That implied that the border’s importance would vanish from people’s daily lives, according to Laine.

These realistic goals helped to explain why Finland took longer than the Baltic states to limit border travel.

“Finland has long positioned itself as an authority on Russia in the EU.”

The opposition center-initial right’s call for constructing a proper barrier in November 2021 was regarded as populist.

However, Putin’s conflict in Ukraine “radically transformed” the situation, according to Laine.

Finland revised its Border Guard Act in July, five months after Russia’s invasion, to permit the building of heavier fencing, the closing of border crossings, and the concentration of asylum seekers at certain places in the case of a significant crossover attempt.

That was in response to worries about “hybrid threats,” such as the migration crisis on the Belarus-EU border in 2021, in which immigrants may be utilised to impose political pressure.

However, plans for the new fence gathered speed after Putin’s military mobilisation in September caused the number of Russians crossing the border to double.

As the crisis develops, the Finnish border guard has stated that it is geared up for “tough developments.”

A spokeswoman said: “It’s probable that efforts at unlawful border crossing could rise when movement is constrained.”

more damage than benefit?

Despite strong political support, the development of the border fence has received scathing criticism from academics.

According to Laine, “the dangers are shockingly bigger than the advantages.”

Building barriers not only costs a lot of money to address a “very small number of migrants,” but also increases hazards for migrants while “blocking very few people,” according to studies.

“People pass away, in short. Fences do not solve problems, “Laine said, pointing out that some refugees would go through more dangerous terrain to enter Finland.

Additionally, he said that while a new barrier would make the work of the Border Guard easier, “clear evidence” shows that making crossings more challenging encourages human trafficking.

Laine said the debate over the fence—which was first planned to discourage Russia from sending migrants to impose political pressure—got mixed up with denouncing Russia’s aggressiveness in Ukraine and explained the unexpected shift in political opinion.

“The barrier is significant symbolically. It is based on feelings rather than logical analysis “he declared.

Others have also highlighted the psychological impact of raising Finns’ sense of security.

The barrier, however, Davydova-Minguet claimed, “reinforces the image of the Russians as a frightening source of dangers.”

“The barrier suggests that there is a threat across the border, and we must keep ourselves apart.”

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