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World Cup supporters claim asylum in Finland

Finnish authorities are processing five asylum applications from people who arrived at the border with Fifa's Fan ID, which stands in for a visa during the World Cup in Russia.

Rajavyöhyke -kyltti
Finland's border with Russia is some 1,300 kilometres long, and dotted with 'stop' signs like this one. Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

As thousands of fans descend on Russia for the World Cup, a few have made a beeline for the country's western border—and claimed asylum in Finland.

Last Friday one asylum seeker arrived at Helsinki Vantaa airport from a third country, travelling on the Fan ID document the Russian authorities introduced to circumvent the country's usually strict visa regulations.

The Fan ID is issued to individual spectators by Fifa, world football's governing body, when they purchase tickets for a match in the tournament.

Also on Friday a Nigerian citizen was detained at the Vainikkala border crossing when he presented what he claimed to be a Brazilian passport, but which border guards suspected was forged. On Sunday three young Moroccan men crossed the border in woods near Vaalimaa.

Brisk start to tournament

In both cases the authorities suspect immigration crimes, and in the Nigerian's case they are also investigating suspicions of forgery.

All those arriving in Finland subsequently claimed asylum.

"The tournament has started off pretty briskly for us," said Ville Mihl of the south-east Finland border guard. "There is a big possibility that this Fan ID might be abused. This was to be expected and we were prepared."

Marko Saareks of the border guard said that officials had expected a spike in asylum claims from fans towards the end of the championships, rather than the beginning.

Saareks said that last year's Confederations Cup, which saw the same visa system in place, was not used by fans to reach the Finnish frontier and claim asylum.

Each year around 5-10 people cases emerge of people crossing Finland's land borders illegally, and authorities investigate some 20-30 cases of forged documents annually.

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