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Finland auctions off asylum seekers’ bicycles

The Nordic nation previously accused Russia of aiding illegal migrants in a bid to undermine the EU – a claim Moscow has strongly denied

Finnish authorities have auctioned off a hundred bicycles used by asylum seekers to cross the border with Russia. Authorities said that most migrants attempting to enter the Nordic country hailed from Africa and the Middle East. Helsinki shut down all crossings in December 2023 due to the volume of asylum requests.

The closure has since been extended indefinitely, with authorities recently suggesting that some crossings may reopen if the Finnish parliament gives the green light to temporary border legislation. If passed, the law would allow the government to “restrict the reception of applications” from asylum seekers attempting to enter from Russia.

The auction, featuring one hundred bicycles, was held by Finnish customs officials in the border village of Vaalimaa on Thursday. The first bike went for €70 ($76), though buyers were required to pay a 24% value added tax on top on the price.

Other examples attracted higher bids, with one person telling reporters that the €120 he shelled out was “quite a reasonable price” given the bike’s good condition. The highest bid recorded at the auction was about €160.

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FILE PHOTO: Cars queue to enter Finland from Russia at the Brusnichnoye multilateral automobile checkpoint, Russia.
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Most of the bicycles were Russian-made models seized in the fall of 2023. While some had clearly been in use for some time, others were in almost mint condition.

Having sold the first hundred, Finnish Customs is planning to organize similar auctions in the coming weeks, with all proceeds going to the government.

Asylum seekers attempted to cross the border on bikes since doing so on foot was not allowed. Once in Finland, most migrants chose to abandon their vehicles on the spot rather than have them cleared by customs.

Speaking last month, Finnish Prime Minister Petteri Orpo accused Russia of using “illegal immigrants against us,” and called for EU-wide “common solutions to stop this phenomenon.” Other Finnish officials have previously also pointed the finger at Moscow for last year’s migrant influx.

Russia has denied weaponizing migration, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accusing Helsinki of refusing cooperation between the countries’ border agencies.

May 17, 2024 at 03:08PM
RT

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