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Syrians cross Norway's Arctic border on bicyles

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The Storskog border station between Norway and Russia. Photo: Cornelius Poppe/NTB scanpix
11:27 CEST+02:00
More than 100 Syrian refugees have crossed the Arctic border into Norway from Russia on bicycles, exploiting a loophole in the country's border regulations.

The Storskog border station -- just two hours drive from the Arctic City of Murmansk in Russia's far north -- is Norway's only legal border crossing with Russia.

According to border agreements, it is illegal either to cross the border on foot or to give someone without papers a lift, a problem Syrian refugees have sidestepped by using bicycles. 

"It is not news to us that tourists cross the border on bicycles, but recently we've also started to see some asylum seekers coming by bicycle," Gøran Stenseth, one of the border officials, told the local Sør-Varanger Avis newspaper. 

So far this year, 133 asylum seekers have entered Norway though Storskog on bicycles. According to local police, most of them are Syrian refugees.

Hans Møllebakken, head of the local police in Kirkenes, said that he had already arrested several drivers who had driven asylum seekers across the border. 

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"We have looked into the the legislation, and we have decided that from now on we will press charges against drivers who bring them across the border," he said

"We arrested someone on Thursday, and we are working on the case. It could be that people are making money off giving these lifts, and in that case, we are talking about human trafficking."

 

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