The Southeast Finland Border Guard’s crime prevention unit suspects that a criminal organisation has been arranging illegal immigration from Africa through Russia into Finland and other parts of the Schengen area.
It says that the group has brought at least 15 individuals into Finland, and more than 150 people into other Schengen countries in recent years. Authorities say that people were brought into Finland on ships and airplanes, on trains entering via the Vainikkala crossing point in Lappeenranta south-east Finland, and by car through the Salla border crossing point in Finnish Lapland during the winter of 2015-16 at least.
“It has become clear that they took advantage of the upsurge of asylum seekers into Finnish Lapland [that winter],” says Timo Häkkinen, lead investigator at the Southeast Finland Border Guard.
This past summer, the Border Guard carried out a major operation in the Helsinki region, detaining one Russian national on suspicion of into arranging illegal immigration.
“The man is now under arrest,” Häkkinen told Yle this week.
The man is also suspected of aggravated drug offences for his alleged role in smuggling about two kilos of marijuana into Finland.
According to the preliminary investigation, the criminal organisation includes recruiters in various African countries, who bring clients to the main organisation in Russia. They were brought into Russia on the pretext of university studies, for instance. Once in Russia, the individuals were provided housing and fake documents to enter the passport-free Schengen zone.