Asylum Seekers and Security at the Northern Finnish-Russian Border: Analysing the "Arctic Route Episode" of 2015-2016
Europe experienced an unprecedented peak in asylum seekers in 2015. Over a million asylum seekers entered the European Union across the Mediterranean Sea and travelled by all means of transport, including by foot, from South to Central and Northern parts of the EU. This “migration crisis” became to define much of the political-territorial atmosphere in the continent with severe impacts on the European security but, significantly, also to the way countries communicated migration related threat images into desires for re-bordering. Towards the end of 2015 and early 2016, a bit strange episode happened up in the North, when asylum seekers travelled to Northern Norway and Finland through Russian Federation. Despite locating very far from the Mediterranean and Balkan routes to Europe, the Russian North appeared to become part of so-called Arctic route to the Schengen area with over 7000 African, Middle-Eastern and Asian asylum seekers. Due to the history of very strict border management and control, very few illegal border crossings and extremely distant location, the “Arctic route episode” to Norway and Finland became matters of security in many ways. After describing the overall character of this “Arctic route episode”, we will analyse different perspectives to migration related security. A particular attention will be paid to Finland, Finnish border management and foreign citizens who applied for asylum at one of the “Eastern” border crossing points (Salla or Raja-Jooseppi) in Northern Finland. The Finnish-Russian case illustrates well the networked but still rather specific migratory processes in Europe. The public discussion on the episode expresses well many of the international political fears and threats migration poses for those who actually are on the move.