Finland moves to block asylum seekers from entering via Russia


By Essi Lehto

HELSINKI, March 15 (Reuters) - Finland plans to adopt temporary legislation that will allow its border authorities to block asylum seekers seeking to enter its territory from Russia, the government said on Friday.

However, a few asylum seekers have continued to arrive and the government believes the numbers could rise significantly with the advent of spring and a rise in temperatures.

Helsinki accuses Moscow of funnelling migrants to the border, a claim the Kremlin has denied.

"Finland has been the target of instrumentalised migration... Russian authorities have not only failed to intervene in this phenomenon but have even facilitated it," Prime Minister Petteri Orpo said.

The proposed legislation will now be sent out for comments and then to parliament for consideration, Orpo said, adding that the government hoped it would be approved as soon as possible.

The Finnish border authority has said more than 1,300 asylum seekers from nations including Yemen, Somalia and Syria entered from Russia between August and December last year. Prior to this period the number had averaged just one person a day.

In February Interior Minister Mari Rantanen said the authorities had information that thousands of people were on the Russian side waiting to travel to Finland.

Finland annoyed Russia last year by abandoning its long-held position of military non-alignment and joining the NATO alliance in response to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by Essi Lehto Editing by Anna Ringstrom and Gareth Jones)

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