Report: Visa requirement blocks asylum seekers via Germany to Finland

Recent rules introduced by Finland requiring ferry passengers to have visas has shut down a route used by asylum seekers to the Nordic country from Germany, a Finnish newspaper reported Saturday.

Paivi Nerg, permanent secretary at the Finnish Interior Ministry, told the Helsinki daily Hufvudstadsbladet that the minstry had recently raised the matter with Finnish ferry operator Finnlines that reviewed its rules.

Before boarding, ferry passengers must, in addition to showing a passport or photo ID card, also present other documents necessary for entry to Finland, such as a "visa, residence permit or other equivalent document," ferry operator Finnlines said in a statement.

Finnlines operates a six-day ferry service between the Finnish capital and Travemuende, northern Germany.

The decision became effective on December 23.

"We are obliged to follow rules set up by the authorities," a Finnlines spokeswoman told dpa.

The company, which also runs services to neighbouring Sweden, had no breakdown for the number of passengers it transported from Germany. Between January and September 2015 it transported a total of 453,000 passengers.

The newspaper said the rules have stopped refugees and asylum seekers trying to reach Finland via Germany.

It cited a voluntary group for asylum seekers in the German city of Luebeck - the Luebecker Fluechtlingsforum -  as critical of the Finnish decision as it prevents family reunions.

Neighbouring Sweden in November introduced checks of passports or other forms of identity cards for people arriving on buses, trains and ferries in the country.

The checks are to be widened Monday, affecting commuter and other trains on the Oresund rail and road bridge that connects Sweden to Denmark.

The Swedish decision states that ferry and train operators as well as bus companies were to be responsible for checking identity papers.

Last update: Sat, 02/01/2016 - 15:47
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