Arctic cycling refugees risk return to Russia

Norway's immigration authorities have said they will send many of the refugees cycling over its far northern border back to Russia.

Arctic cycling refugees risk return to Russia
The Storskog border station between Norway and Russia. Photo: Cornelius Poppe/NTB scanpix

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration told NRK that persons with legal residence in Russia are likely to be returned there.

Tor Espen Haga of the National Police Immigration Service said this was likely to include many of those coming over the Arctic border at Storskog. 

“We see a tendency that those coming through Storskog have stayed in other countries besides Syria for some time,” he said. 

At Fjellhallen transit center in Kirkenes, NRK journalists spoke to many refugees who had lived a long time in Russia, often years, and who had received work or student visas.

The number of refugees entering Norway through the Storskog border crossing near Kirkenes has shot up this year, with more than 500 arriving this year.

Many of the refugees have made the crossing on bicycles, as it is illegal to cross on foot according to Russian border regulations.

However, some of the refugees complained that conditions in Russia were harsh for Syrians, with little chance of making a living. 

“Russia doesn't give us anything. If they catch you working, they throw you in prison,” Khalil, a 23-year-old Syrian refugee  told NRK. “You can stay in Russia, but you are not allowed to work or do anything.” 

Only those Syrians who have entered through Russia after avoiding registration by police are likely to be granted asylum.

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