Dozens of third country citizens are being refused entry at Estonia's Narva border crossing every day and the number is rising. The authorities say many people are actively seeking an EU entry ban so they can immediately return to Russia.
The majority of those turned away are Moldovans who work in Russia and have no interest in crossing into the European Union, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) said.
In recent months, the number of people issued entry bans at Narva in Ida-Viru County has increased significantly from a dozen a day to around 30.
Marek Liiva, head of the Narva border crossing, told ERR border guards issue bans every day. Reasons include lacking the correct documents or being unable to explain why they seek to enter the EU.
The Moldovans are seeking exit stamps from Russia in their passports, Liiva said. They have told border guards Russia has a rule that migrants must leave the country every 90 days – with proof of an exit stamp – and then they can immediately return.
Moldovan citizens told the border guards this needs to be done several times before they get a residence permit or citizenship in Russia.
The official said Estonia hands out one-time entry bans that can be issued more than once. This allows people to visit Narva multiple times and get new stamps.
All this creates additional work for Estonia's border guards.
"If in the past we used to say that we had 10 to 15, now sometimes even 30 to 40, entry bans a day here, the entry ban itself, depending on the person and the case, can be half an hour to an hour," explained Liiva.
The number of entry bans issued has increased since Finland and other neighboring countries closed their borders with Russia. Last month, PPA deputy director general Veiko Kommusaar told ERR News the Moldovan case is not related to Russia's "hybrid attack" on Finland.
Over the Christmas weekend, 87 foreigners were denied entry at Narva crossing. The majority were from Moldova.
PPA data shows, as of November 22, over 2,100 exit bans have been issued to Moldovans in 2023. This is a significant increase from 639 in 2022.
Editor: Helen Wright