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Frontex: We can offer assistance to Finland, Estonia if needed

Uku Särekanno
Uku Särekanno Source: Mait Ots/ERR

The European Union's Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) said it can offer Estonia and Finland help if migrant pressure continues, Deputy Director Uku Särekanno said.

Nineteen people from Somalia and Syria attempted to enter Estonia via Narva on Thursday after Russian border guards allowed them to leave Russia without the proper documents.

Finland has been dealing with a similar situation, which has seen hundreds of people arrive at its borders on bicycles.

The agency can provide both border guards and Arabic translation, he added.

"The situation is worrying and we are in contact with the Finnish Border Guard over operational plans about how we can support them. In particular, the Finns are interested in support in terms of conducting debriefings [clarifying the background of migrants – ed.] and interrogating arrivals, but everything is being specified as to what this operational support might be," Särekanno told ERR on Friday.

He said the Finnish government's decision to close four border crossings from midnight on Saturday (November 18) is "a very clear message that Finland does not intend to accept people being brought to the border and migration being used as a form of pressure."

Frontex's slide explaining the situation in Finland Source: Frontex

All four crossings are in southeast Finland and the migration flow could redirect to Estonia, Särekanno said. This has also been pointed out by Estonia's Police and Guard Board (PPA).

"Looking at the map [above – ed.}, in reality, this may mean that pressure on Estonian border crossing points will increase, but this will be monitored by the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board, which will have its own risk scenarios and its own risk assessments and measures to be taken accordingly," he explained.

Särekanno also emphasized that migration flows on the European Union's eastern and southern borders are different.

In Russia, the border guard is under the authority of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which fully controls the situation in the border zone. Usually, both sides of the border are guarded. If something starts to happen on the Russian side, if there is a sudden migratory flow, it is clear that this is a Russian hybrid operation to destabilize neighboring countries.

Särekanno said Frontex can offer assistance if requested.

Russian-Estonian border in south Estonia. Source: Leevi Lillemäe/ERR

"Frontex is certainly ready to support Estonia as well," he said. "We have rapid reaction units. When there was the Lithuanian crisis two years ago, we deployed over 100 officers in a very short period of time to the border with Belarus."

The amount of help depends on the complexity of the situation and what the member state needs, Särekanno said. "We will certainly hold these talks if the situation escalates," he promised.

There are already 25 Frontex officials from other countries in Estonia, the majority of them work in Narva and on the eastern border, but some are also stationed at Tallinn Airport. "But, of course, we have the capacity to increase support if the Estonian state needs it," he noted.

"Today, they are present at border crossing points as well as at the green border, and it's not just about officers – of course, it's also possible to provide technical assistance when needed – be it drones or helicopters. But it all comes down to what the country's risk assessment and needs are. In this respect, we will probably see in the coming weeks what the situation will be," said Särekanno.

Green borders are weakly protected sections of the national border usually covered with vegetation, such as forests. Last year, Estonia legalized migrant pushbacks on its borders that take place away from official crossing points during "emergencies caused by mass immigration".

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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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