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Minister: Finland could close border over migrant situation at Belarus borders

Thousands of migrants are at Belarus' border with Poland. The EU has blamed Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko of bringing the third-country migrants to the borders of member states.

Latvian ulkoministeri Edgars Rinkevics ja suomen ulkoministeri Pekka Haavisto.
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs and Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto in Helsinki on Tuesday. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva
Yle News

Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto said on Tuesday that Belarus needs to care for the refugees in its country and cannot push them across the borders of other countries.

Belarus has transported migrants and refugees, in efforts to assist them to cross into neighbouring countries Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Haavisto said that Finland has legislation in place to deal with hybrid threats which can be used to temporarily close the border, if necessary.

The matter of the Belarus-Polish border was raised at a joint press briefing with foreign minister Haavisto and his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičs in Helsinki on Tuesday.

Large numbers of migrants have gathered at the border between Belarus and Poland since Monday. According to the BBC late on Tuesday afternoon, at least 2,000 migrants are at Belarus' border with Poland.

The European Union has accused the leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, of smuggling migrants from third countries across EU borders.

Haavisto said that Finland and the EU condemned the actions taken by Belarus.

"This is a hybrid activity and we must work together against it,"

On Monday EU President Ursula von der Leyen called on member states to impose new sanctions against Belarus for causing the problem. She said the use "of migrants for political purposes is unacceptable," according to several media outlets, including France24.

Haavisto said the new sanctions package would be targeted at airlines from countries that are bringing migrants to Belarus. He added that operations of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency Frontex needs to be strengthened.

Meanwhile, Latvian foreign minister Rinkēvičs characterised the situation at the Latvian-Belarusian border as "tense but stable," saying that the matter, as well as the situation at the Polish border, were being monitored.

Latvia declared a state of emergency in August in order to return migrants to Belarus from the Latvian border.

Interior Minister: Finland is prepared

Finnish Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo separately said on Tuesday that Finland would defend its borders if necessary.

Ohisalo called on the EU to take joint action against the hybrid threat which Belarus poses.

Meeting with members of the media at Parliament House, Ohisalso said that hybrid threats at EU borders were a new phenomenon and the right ways to combat them were currently being sought.

She said that Finland is already prepared to defend its borders, as well as the EU's common external border, if they are subjected to state sponsored mass immigration or other hybrid threats.

Ohisalo emphasised that according to international agreements which Finland has signed, asylum seekers must be given opportunities to submit asylum applications upon arrival to at least one border crossing point.

The interior minister said that the EU and member states should make efforts to influence third countries from which migrants were setting off with false hopes.

Responding to the situation at the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania on Monday, Ohisalo tweeted that she found Belarus' actions to be highly reprehensible.

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