Illegal border-crossings on increase from Russia to Finland
In three years Russian officials claim to have foiled nearly 6,000
illegal attempts to enter Finland
At the country's borders, airports and seaports, the Guard Service of Russia has prevented nearly 6,000 illegal attempts to enter into Finland over the last three years. The figure was announced by the director of the Guard Service of Russia, Army General Vladimir Pronichev, during his visit to Helsinki on Tuesday.
"Our new border zone creates favourable conditions for the prevention of border and border-crossing illegalities. Thanks to the new zone, illegal migration attempts can be intercepted in time. The zone adds to the security of both countries", Pronichev commented.
Russia introduced its new border zone in December. The current zone follows the borders of municipalities. Therefore, in some areas the zone along the Finnish border has widened, in other areas it has narrowed down.
In the light of statistics, the increased pressure on the eastern land border of Finland is self-evident. For example, at the border section monitored by the Southeast Finland Frontier Guard District, the number of illegal border-crossings has doubled in three years.
Last year, 19 individuals were involved in 15 illegal border-crossings in the southeastern corner of Finland. In 2004 the corresponding figures were 11 and 7 respectively.
These figures do not include unintentional crossings by berry-pickers who have temporarily lost their bearings, or border patrols accidentally crossing the frontier line by a couple of metres.
"The percentage of increase is substantial, but fortunately the total number of illegal crossings is still minute"", says Lieutenant-Colonel Pasi Tolvanen, the commander of the Southeast Finland Frontier Guard District.
According to Tolvanen, the fact that Russia no longer uses national servicemen for border patrolling, but instead relies on professional frontier guards, may have contributed to the increase of illegal crossings.
"The new system may not be immediately as efficient as the old one. A temporary drop in the level of operations by the Border Guard Service of Russia may also explain the growth."
The head of the Finnish Frontier Guard, Vice Admiral Jaakko Smolander, says that the Border Guard Service of Russia employs only half of the staff it had five years ago. In the same period, the number of frontier stations has also dropped to a third. Nevertheless, the eastern border has remained relatively quiet and peaceful.
"In the Imatra region there were a couple of isolated incidents in the autumn. They contributed to the total number of illegal border-crossings, but were merely a small spike", Smolander believes.
Those entering Finland illegally across the Russian land border are mostly Russian citizens, thought six other nationalities were also involved. Their motive is mostly to work illegally either in Finland or elsewhere in Europe.
Some of the uncovered incidents have caused Tolvanen to suspect that those attempting illegal land border crossings may have received outside help.
"At the frontier crossing points of Southeastern Finland, 12 incident of illegal human trafficking were uncovered. Some of the cases were considered aggravated. When the risk of getting caught increases, the human traffickers naturally find another route."
In most cases, the illegal border-crosser is caught when the technical surveillance system detects him on the Finnish side, explains surveillance officer Timo Koponen from the Pelkola frontier guard station.
"A border patrol is always on stand-by. The patrol can reach the scene in no more than 15 minutes, unless by then it has been confirmed through camera surveillance that the alarm was set off by a wild animal."
Finland has a land frontier with Russia of 1,269 kilometres. It is also the eastern border of the European Union and of the Schengen zone.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Russia announces substantial expansion of border zone in Karelia (13.12.2006)
Finnish Border Guard