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Norwegian minister says country has ‘good control’ at Russian border

The Local (news@thelocal.com)
The Local ([email protected]) • 3 Oct, 2022 Updated Mon 3 Oct 2022 13:54 CEST
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A file photo of the border crossing station at Storskog near Kirkenes in northern Norway. Norway has no current plans to close the border. Photo: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP

The queue of cars waiting to enter Norway at its northern border with Russia was reported to be long on Sunday, but Oslo said it has no immediate plans to shut the crossing.

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A total number of 295 people on Sunday entered Norway from Russia at the Storskog border crossing in northern county Finnmark, according to police figures reported by NTB. 174 crossed in the opposite direction.

Russia does not appear to have restricted its citizens from leaving for Norway, though rumours suggest Moscow could move to ban men of mobilisation age from leaving. Finland closed its border to tourists with Russian visas on Friday.

“We will close the border quickly if necessary, and changes can come at short notice,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said on Friday.

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Norway can close its border with a few hours’ notice, according to the minister.

READ ALSO: Norway to boost security along border with Russia

But Mehl said following a meeting with police officials near the border on Sunday that she was satisfied with the current situation and that a complete closure was not immediately on the cards.

“It was a useful meeting. It is important for the government that we have good control of the border with Russia. We are now the only country in the Schengen zone with an open border to Russia. It is extra important for us that we have security around the border station at Storskog and the surrounding areas,” Mehl said to news wire NTB.

The minister stressed that the border would not be closed at the current time.

“Our position is that everyone who wants to apply for asylum in Norway has the right to do so,” she said.

The Storskog crossing on Norway’s almost 200-kilometre (120-mile) far northern border with Russia is now practically the only remaining point of entry into the Schengen area for Russians with tourist visas.

“Finland has restricted who can go there but there are still exceptions in their rules and the border is open for a small number. But it is important that we reassess this continually,” Mehl said.

Norway is not a member of the European Union but is part of the Schengen area, which all but stopped issuing Schengen tourist visas to Russians in May. But Russian holders of visas and residence permits issued by other European countries are able to cross into Norway to transit.

The earlier part of last week saw over 400 people enter Norway from Russia daily, according to NTB, but the number fell to between 100 and 200 in the second half of the week. The news wire reports that Russian nationals it spoke to on the Norwegian side of the border said there are still long queues of people on the Russian side, waiting to enter Norway.

Mehl said that full closure of the border by Norway would be a “drastic” measure.

“We have seen that the numbers have gone a little up and down in Norway but it is nowhere close to the numbers Finland has had,” she said.

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