Finnish refugee aid NGOs are calling on Russian border officials to allow asylum seekers in the country to cross the border into Finland. They say that a lack of valid travel documents is not sufficient cause to prevent people seeking asylum from entering Finland. Sanna Rummakko of the Refugee Advice Centre pointed out that Russia is party to an international agreement on refugees.
The convention allows people to seek asylum in the country of their choice, she said. She added that this is regardless of whether or not individuals have long held a Russian residence permit or even if they have no identity documents at all.
Rummakko said that preventing asylum seekers from entering Finland means that Russia is violating its own commitments.
The convention calls on states to guarantee refugees legal and safe passage through their countries. The NGOs noted that this clause has by no means always been respected in Europe, and it is one of the reasons that asylum seekers have turned to people smugglers for help, they charged.
It is estimated that there are thousands of asylum seekers in Russia who are trying to head west. In practice Russia has been a popular destination mainly for refugees from Ukraine, but now about 2,000 Syrians have been granted temporary asylum in the country.
Most asylum seekers who have traveled through Russia have gone to Norway. The Nordic state now wants to turn them back to Russia. On Tuesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that some of the people who are seeking asylum in Norway and Finland said they had come to Russia to work or visit family. He said they have therefore entered the country on false pretences and that Russia does not need to take them back.
Finland negotiating with Russia
Finnish officials have expressed concern over the asylum seeker situation across the border in Russia. There is also no information about how many people are trying to reach Finland or how they are being cared for.
Finland is looking to answer these questions on many levels. Interior Minister Petteri Orpo met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Kolokoltsev Tuesday afternoon, with immigration cooperation high on the agenda.
However in Russia border protection is the responsibility of the Federal Security Service and not the Interior Ministry.