Due to budget cuts, the ability to carry out border patrols along the Finnish-Russian border has dropped by an estimated 40 percent over the past few years. A Border Guard official says that the department needs a budgetary increase of 10 million euros – or the same levels spent in 2012 – to improve the situation.
As long as the border remains peaceful, the current level of surveillance along the divide between Russia is adequate, Major General Ilkka Laitinen, Deputy Chief of the Finnish Border Guard says.
However, he says his agency is concerned about the adequacy of the security of the border if something should happen.
“It’s our main concern, and it has been since the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine,” Laitinen says. “The security environment has changed and the predictability of the border has deteriorated.”
He says that the current level of border control is sufficient as long as it is peaceful.
Laitinen also said that the majority of illicit eastern border crossings are carried out by people from a third country.
Not enough patrols
The monitoring of breaches of the vast border is largely aided by technology and tips from residents along the border, unauthorised people crossing the border are always detected. However, he says, it’s not enough.
“The patrols are not in place to catch them,” he says.
In order to improve the patrol situation there, Laitinen says, the Border Guard would need to add around 140 jobs, which amounts to around 10 million euros in extra appropriations.
Currently the government has allotted the Border Guard an operating budget of 229 million euros for 2016, which is one million euros less than last year.
The border between Finland and Russia measures more than 1,300 kilometres in length and consists mostly of forest and rural areas with few inhabitants.
The border also serves as part of the external border of the Schengen Area and the European Union.
This story is posted on BarentsObserver as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.