Police in Norway’s northernmost county of Finnmark have demanded an answer from Russian authorities as to why they allowed six asylum seekers to cross the border into Norway this week. Norwegian authorities thought they had an agreement with their Russian counterparts on strict border control.
News bureau NTB reported Thursday that the six asylum seekers, aged four to 58 years old, are originally from Armenia. On Tuesday afternoon, at around 1:30pm, they crossed the border at Storskog in a car from Russia.
The Storskog border crossing is where thousands of refugees, mostly from Afghanistan and Syria, entered Norway during an unprecedented influx in the late summer and fall of 2015. At that point, they were known for arriving on bicycles in order to conform to some unusual border regulations.
Russians and Norwegians living within 30-kilometers of the border can generally cross freely, in accordance with a special agreement between Russian and Norwegian authorities aimed at regional cooperation. The border is otherwise closely guarded by both sides and Russian authorities rarely let others come near it, not least because much of the area is under military control.
None of the six refugees arriving on Tuesday had visas to the so-called Schengen area of the European Union, in which Norway is included. Their crossing marked the first time anyone has arrived from Russia and sought asylum since November 30, 2015, when authorities cracked down on the refugee influx.
Police in Finnmark, who are responsible for the border, were wondering on Thursday whether their Russian counterparts are suddenly adopting a new practice. “We have asked for an answer as to why they were let through,” Ellen Katrine Hætta, chief of the Finnmark Police District, told NTB.
She has no idea when the Russians will answer. In the meantime, personnel from the police unit in Oslo that handles immigration issues (Politiets utlendingsenhet), flew to Kirkenes Tuesday evening to register the new asylum seekers.
“The case will be handled quickly according to instructions from the Justice Ministry,” Hætta said.