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HELSINKI: Finland closed again its border with Russia on Friday evening at 1800 GMT for a month, after more than 300 asylum seekers entered from Russia within two days, the Finnish Border Guard said.

The Nordic country reopened two border crossings on Thursday to allow travel between the two countries after a two-week total closure, but the Finnish government decided the same day to close them again on Friday, after the inflow of asylum seekers restarted as soon as the border restrictions were relaxed.

Some 900 asylum seekers from nations such as Kenya, Morocco, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen entered Finland from Russia in November, an increase from less than one per day previously, according to the Border Guard.

Helsinki says the inflow of asylum seekers arriving via Russia is an orchestrated move by Moscow in retaliation for Finland’s decision to increase defence cooperation with the United States. The Kremlin denies this.

Finland will again shut Russian border over asylum seekers

The arrivals stopped when Finland shut the border in late November, but resumed on Thursday when two of the eight crossings were reopened.

Traffic became congested and tensions mounted on the Finnish side of the Vaalimaa crossing before its closing time, local media reported, citing angry and hungry Russian border crossers some of whom had queued the whole day with their children to make it back to Russia before the suddenly announced re-closure.

The Border Guard told Finland’s largest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, that border crossers coming from Finland could not be let through because Russian border authorities were letting so many migrants through the crossing from the Russian side.

On Thursday, 155 asylum seekers arrived through the two open crossing points, the Border Guard said. On Friday, more than 200 people had sought asylum before the borders closed again, it told local TV channel MTV.

In a letter published on Monday, the Council of Europe said it was “concerned about the rights of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants” following the temporary border closure, and asked Finland to ensure it remained possible to seek protection.

Minister of Interior Mari Rantanen, who represents the anti-immigration Finns Party, told Reuters on Monday there was no cause for human rights concerns, however, as asylum could be sought at other entry points.

Finland still allows asylum applications to be filed by migrants arriving at harbours and airports.

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