Finland's Eastern border has seen a rise in the number of people attempting to enter the country, many of them claiming asylum, while lacking the necessary documentation.
Some spokespeople from Finnish authorities say this surge is likely being orchestrated by Russia.
Finland's Border Guard reports that since the beginning of August 2023, 91 people have arrived at the border crossing points in Southeastern Finland but without the required travel documents, instead applying for asylum in Finland.
This figure is higher than usual. The Finnish Border Guard says, referring to it as illegal migration.
International crime is likely also linked to the phenomenon, the Finnish Border Guard says.
The number of illegal border crossings at the land border (ie. areas border away from official checkpoints) remains unchanged.
Finland's eastern border with Russia is 1,340 km long. The country formally joined NATO earlier this year.
Jukka Lukkari, Deputy Commander of the Southeast Finland Border Guard, stressed to public broadcaster Yle that the situation remains calm, even as numbers have grown.
"In the last week, there have been around 30 arrivals. This is clearly a growing phenomenon," Lukkari said, adding that attempts to cross the border by bicycle and become increasingly common.
In response, Finland's southeastern border crossing checkpoints stopped allowing cyclists through last Thursday, Lukkari added.
Yle put the figure of border crossers of all kinds in the Southeast of the country, namely at the Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa and Imatra checkpoints, at 3,000 per day, in both directions.
Meanwhile, Jukka Savolainen of the Helsinki-based European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), told Yle that the development is a "signal" the Kremlin wishes to send its neighbor to the West.
"It's a signal they want to send Finland. That seems clear," said
"If they open up the route from there, we'll soon have a refugee problem," Savolainen added.
Interior Minister Mari Rantanen (Finns) meanwhile said the country was prepared for a change in the border security situation. "We are prepared, and if necessary, we will act as the situation requires."
In any case, Yle reports, Finland has for several years been preparing for potential hybrid influencing coming from Russia and involving larger numbers of exploited persons, mainly asylum seekers, being directed to the Finnish border.
The 2015 migration crisis also saw Russia applying pressure in this way, Yle says.
The Finnish border authority says the people attempting to enter Finland illegally are from third countries, having transited through Russia. One recent change that gives credence to the influencing theory is that whereas Russian authorities had prevented people traveling across the country in a westerly direction if they did not have the required documentation to hand, now, the border guard says, this stricture has been relaxed.
This included Ukrainian citizens seeking temporary protection upon arrival at the border and following the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The Finnish border guard says it is closely monitoring the development of the situation and, together with other security authorities, evaluating the nature and effects of the current phenomenon on Finland's public order and security.
Further measures within the scope of current law can be taken where necessary.
Editor: Andrew Whyte