Updated 01.15 | Published 00.52
They were used in Putin’s “hybrid attack”.
Now they are being tricked into war for real.
The choice is between Ukraine and deportation.
Busloads of refugees from Africa and the Middle East caused Finland to close its border crossings with Russia.
Putin is accused of using the refugees in a revenge operation to shake up Finnish society after joining NATO.
Hundreds of people who were tricked into thinking they could get to the West were then stuck on the Russian side.
Caught and arrested
Astounding images showed Africans cycling the last stretch to the border in snow and ice, as they were not allowed to cross the crossing on foot.
They should have received the bikes from Russian authorities, Finland states.
When the border stations were closed, many of the refugees were arrested and detained because they lacked valid residence permits, writes the BBC.
In Karelia, one of three Russian regions bordering Finland, 236 people have been arrested for staying in the country without documents in the past three weeks.
They must be deported from Russia back to their home countries.
But now Putin is said to have found a new way to make use of the wave of refugees, writes the BBC.
Got an offer
According to the British television channel, a number of the refugees with deportation orders have been offered a way to stay in Russia.
A Somali man in his 40s told the BBC that he and about a dozen held in a detention center in the Karelian capital, Petrozavodsk, were visited by representatives of the military and offered “a job for the state”.
They were promised a good salary, healthcare and the opportunity to stay in Russia if they signed a one-year contract with the army.
The 40-year-old, five more Somalis, five people from different Arab countries and a Cuban accepted the terms, were put on a bus and driven south.
He tells the BBC that it was only when the bus stopped at a muddy military tent camp on the border with Ukraine that it dawned on the men that they were about to be sent to war.
“Everything was a lie”
– We were told that it applied to a one-year contract with training and opportunities for salary and care, but nothing about the Ukrainian border and war. Everything they said was a lie, he says.
The men demanded that the contracts be cancelled.
The commanders are said to have then threatened them with long prison sentences for violating military law, but are said to have later changed their minds and agreed to tear up the contracts and allow the deportation proceedings to continue.
For now, the refugees are stuck in the tent camp.
The men say they were cheated, but the contracts were in Russian, which neither of them understands.
So they don’t really know what they signed up for. But they say it shouldn’t matter.
– I am a refugee, not a soldier, says the 40-year-old to the BBC.
FACT Finland’s border with Russia
Finland has nine border posts with Russia.
Since Friday, only the northern crossing Raja-Jooseppi, located 240 kilometers from Murmansk, is open.
The decision is valid until 23 December 2023.
Finland’s 1,340 kilometer long border with Russia is the longest in Europe.