HELSINKI, Finland – Finland has auctioned off dozens of shabby Soviet-era cars left by migrants who crossed the country’s Arctic border from Russia.
Finnish customs in Salla, about 900 kilometers north of Helsinki, put 128 cars, mainly old Soviet Ladas or Volgas, up for auction.
“These are 128 abandoned vehicles that were handed over to the state. Asylum seekers who arrived via Russia abandoned or handed them over,” said Chief Inspector Kari Hannu in an interview, stressing that the event had attracted a lot of attention.
The vehicles were left by migrants, mostly from Afghanistan and Syria, who crossed the border between December and March. Seeking to avoid the risky Mediterranean sea route to the continent, the migrants bought junkers in Russia and illegally crossed to Finland to get into the EU’s passport-free Schengen travel zone.
The Volgas were valued at about $713.02 (€640), and a Lada estate car with rare circular headlights was bought by a Finnish collector for $311.95 (€280).
“There’s rust and few dents on them, but mechanically they’ll last forever. And it’s very easy to find spare parts,” a retired mechanic and a Soviet-era auto enthusiast Rauno Halttunen said.
Most of the vehicles were registered about 40 years ago in Finland and sold to Russian buyers in the 1990s, according to auction organizer Asko Viitanen.
Prices for classic Soviet models start at $133.69 (€120). Cars manufactured in post-Soviet Russia were snatched up for just a few euro per vehicle.
Previously, migrants used to cross the Russian-Finnish border by bicycle as foot crossing is forbidden. Asylum seekers turned to old rusty cars after the Finnish government banned bicycle crossing. The Arctic route was totally blocked in December, when Finland and Russia agreed on tighter border security.