Border officials in Finland say that they have uncovered an international group suspected of smuggling third-country migrants by way of northern border crossings from Russia to Finland and onwards into Europe.
By the end of March the Border Guard had arrested 16 individuals believed to be involved in the scheme, including people from the countries of India, Pakistan, Holland and Sweden.
One of the suspects, a Chinese national who worked as a steward on national airline Finnair, was arrested at Helsinki Airport in January.
Thirteen of the suspects remain in custody, officials said.
According to the border protection agency’s preliminary investigation, the smuggling group had contacted people in India who were living in poor conditions.
Earlier this year, Finland’s Defense Minister Jussi Niinistö of the True Finns’ party accused Russia of launching a “hybrid war” by means of dispatching large groups of migrants through the border. In March, Russia and Finland agreed to introduce temporary border restrictions in order to put a stop to illegal migration, whereupon the flow of refugees without valid documents dropped significantly.