Migrants Biking Across Russia's Northern Border

According to Norwegian police, 133 asylum seekers, most of them from Syria, made the crossing so far this year. That is up from just a dozen such crossings in 2014.

Published: 29th August 2015 08:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2015 08:24 AM   |  A+A-

Border guards in Storskog, Norway's only border crossing on its 122?mile border with Russia, say more than 100 refugees have recently tried to cross by bike because of a loophole in the border agreement between the two countries.

"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," Goran Stenseth, one of the border officials, told the local Sor-Varanger Avis newspaper.

According to Norwegian police, 133 asylum seekers, most of them from Syria, made the crossing so far this year. That is up from just a dozen such crossings in 2014.

The border crossing, in a sparsely populated region 80 miles east of Murmansk and seven miles from the Norwegian port of Kirkenes, is regularly crossed by Russian and Norwegian citizens under a visa-free regime for local residents.

Because the crossing is closed to pedestrians, travellers without their own transport often have to hitch a lift with drivers travelling one way or the other.

The switch to bicycles appears to come after Norwegian police warned they would crack down on drivers giving lifts to individuals without valid travel documents.

In a press release earlier in August, police said drivers could face fines or up to six years in prison for arriving at the Norwegian border post with passengers without documents.

"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," Hans Mollebakken, the chief of police in Kirkenes told the newspaper.

"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."

It is not clear whether the cycling refugees rode all the way from Murmansk or acquired their bicycles in Nikel, the tiny industrial town closest to the Russian side of the border.

While the flow of refugees through Russia is minimal compared with routes via southern Europe, it reflects a close historical relationship between Russia and Syria. Their alliance dates back to Soviet times, and early in Syria's civil war Russian aircraft evacuated hundreds of people.


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp