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The Finnish government has won the support of all political parties to build a metal fence along the most vulnerable stretches of its border with Russia, with the aim of curbing illegal immigration and the massive arrival of migrants.
The measure, initially proposed by the Finnish Border Guard, was endorsed by all parliamentary groups during a consultative meeting held by the Executive on Tuesday afternoon with the leaders of the other political parties.
“It’s about being able to make sure that the border is well guarded and being able to anticipate what might happen there,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters.
The project, the details of which have yet to be finalized, calls for the construction of a metal fence several meters high with wire fences on top and video surveillance cameras along the border sections considered to be at greatest risk.
Overall, the fence will have a total length of between 130 and 260 kilometers, which is between 10 and 20 % of the 1,340 kilometer border between Finland and Russia.
The work is expected to take about four years and involve an outlay of “several hundred million euros,” according to estimates by the border guards.
Initially, a test section of about three kilometers will be built on the southeastern Finnish border, the busiest due to its proximity to St. Petersburg, at a cost of about six million euros.
Finland, which has the longest border with Russia in the European Union and the second longest in Europe (after Ukraine), is thus responding to increased tensions with Moscow in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession process.
The Kremlin has repeatedly warned Helsinki that its membership in the Atlantic Alliance will have serious consequences, so the Finnish government fears that Russia could orchestrate a migration crisis similar to the one that took place on the Polish-Belarusian border in late 2021.
For this reason, the Finnish government approved last July, as a matter of urgency, a series of legal reforms to enable it to deal with a possible massive influx of immigrants at its border.
These amendments include a statutory provision to allow the construction of fences and other border barriers to enhance national security.
They also include the possibility of temporarily prohibiting the right to stay and move in areas close to the border in exceptional circumstances, for example, in case of a massive influx of immigrants.
It also makes it possible to centralize the reception of asylum applications at certain points of the border, which would mean closing the rest of the border crossings to refugees.