Thursday, February 2

Should Russians fleeing war be allowed in? The debate, from Finland to Spain

The local Finnish press says that there are individual country houses in the country that, suddenly, “magically” belong to more than 20 Russian citizens at the same time. It’s actually ato country entry strategy through a visa that is granted specifically to those foreigners who have a property, according to Charly Salonius, a Finnish political analyst.

Finland, which has a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia, is experiencing a veritable avalanche of citizens from the neighboring country who are fleeing the possibility of being recruited to go to the front in Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine. At the peak of the weekend, the number of admissions has approached 9,000 in one day. Some of them go back to other European countries. This Monday, for example, 7,743 Russians arrived in Finland and 3,662 left, according to official data.

“The will of the Government is to further restrict the arrival of Russians to Finland and to the Schengen area, we have to do it,” a woman explains to this newspaper. Finnish government source. Helsinki had already limited the number of visas it grants to Russian nationals to a maximum of 10% of those issued before the war. But those who already have it granted, or obtain it at the consulate of another country, until now could pass. “The problem is that many of those who enter Finland have visas issued by Spain, Greece, Cyprus… We will not be able to restrict the arrival of Russians only with the visa policy.”

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In this sense, the Finnish Foreign Minister has been clear. The country of himdoes not want to be a place of transit for the Schengen zone with visas issued by other countries”, said Pekka Haavisto.

Spain has a more lax policy when it comes to granting visas. It has not imposed maximum quotas no special obstacles for the Russians. It has simply eliminated, along with the rest of the EU countries, the privileges they had thanks to the Visa Facilitation Agreement signed with Russia in 2007. Now, like everyone else, they must undergo interviews (where are they going, what are they going to to do, what are the reasons for their trip, etc) to determine if they are worthy of being granted an entry visa to Spain. this newspaper has tried unsuccessfully to obtain from the Foreign Ministry data on the number of visas granted to Russian citizens.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, denied this Monday that there is “an avalanche of Russian citizens” requesting Spanish visas. He has ensured that Spain has open doors for Russian citizens who want to leave the country for their position against the war and who are risking their lives, especially since last Wednesday, when Putin announced a partial military mobilization that involved recruiting thousands of Russians.

all those russians who share “European values ​​have a place among us”, has said. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, through the system of individual interviews that existed previously. It has not detailed what criteria will be applied.

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controversial ban

On September 19, the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland decided to stop issuing Schengen visas to Russian citizens, thus de facto stopping entry through their border. The foreign ministers of the four countries justified the decision on the basis of the protection of national security and the Schengen area in general. Only asylum seekers can aspire to enter, and as long as they show that their application is justified.

The matter has generated intense debate and a barrage of criticism. Is it an excessive measure? Should we instead accept the more Russians the better to reduce the Russian mobilization capacity? Should everyone be rejected? And, as for the granting of asylum, to whom? Should it be given, for example, to those who claim that, after being recruited, they can be forced to commit crimes against humanity?

“Here, in the Baltic countries, people believe that the borders cannot be opened to Russian men who escape the mobilization,” he explains. from Estonia Kristi Raik, director of the country’s Foreign Policy Institute (ICDS). “The security risks are simply too high, with hundreds of thousands of Russians trying to escape,” she says.

In addition, the analyst believes, it is important “to allow protest sentiment grows in Russia of the people who oppose the decisions of the Putin regime (…), who show their discontent there and press for change”. The West cannot provide “an escape valve for the Putin regime” or help it survive “by letting people critical of his government escape the country.”

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Another security risk, in the long term, is, according to Raik, a drastic increase in the number of Russian minorities in these small countries. Estonia, for example, has only 1.3 million inhabitants, of which 80,000 are of Russian origin. The presence of these large minorities could be “instrumentalized” by Russia as a form of “hybrid influence”. “Moscow has a long history of using the presence of Russian-speaking population as an excuse to promote their geopolitical interests and carry out operations to influence” or even “as a hybrid tool” to harm other countries, concludes the Estonian analyst.

In the same vein, the Finnish Charly Salonius is shown: “There is a huge debate here in Finland, and it will be more important the greater the number of Russians who stay“, Explain. “If someone asks for asylum, he has to be considered, but he has to prove something that he proves he deserves it, and the mere possibility of being recruited is not a reason. It should prove, for example, an opposition activity prior to the mobilization decreed last Wednesday.

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