Scores of asylum seekers who cycled over the Russian border into Norway are now being required to pedal back over it, after their applications for asylum were rejected. Some had already been flown south to stay temporarily in asylum centers, but were sent back to Northern Norway, to leave the way they came.
Nearly all the roughly 6,000 asylum seekers who’ve been entering Norway via the so-called “Arctic Route” through Russia arrive on bicycles. That’s because a border agreement between Norway and Russia prohibits anyone from crossing the border on foot.
Asylum seekers lacking vehicles thus found the proverbial loophole, assisted, authorities believe, by so-called “agents” who sold them bicycles before reaching the border. That way they literally could roll over the border without violating the “no foot traffic” rules.
Most of the bicycles have ended up in rubbish heaps, bound for scrap metal dealers, because the Russian bicycles aren’t approved for use in Norway. Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that authorities have now found a means of reducing the piles of discarded bikes, by requiring unsuccessful asylum seekers facing deportation to cycle back to Russia.
Norwegian authorities have been cracking down on the numbers of asylum seekers arriving in Norway without any legitimate need for protection. They include all those who already had residence permission in Russia.
Aftenposten reported that around half of those who sought asylum in Norway’s most northern county of Finnmark were sent south because Finnmark lacked capacity to accommodate the thousands arriving every week. In recent weeks, many of those whose applications for asylum were rejected have been flown back from asylum centers in Haugesund, Bodø and Stavanger to Kirkenes in Finnmark.
Those with valid visas or residence documents in Russia are then driven to the border crossing at Storskog and given one of the discarded bicycles, to legally ride over the border again.
Many of those deported are not from Syria or Afghanistan, like the vast majority of asylum seekers, but instead from other countries including Pakistan, Albania, Egypt and Nepal, reported Aftenposten.