Syrian Refugees Pedal for Asylum by Biking Across Norway’s Arctic Border
A legal loophole offers hope for those fleeing from one of the worst humanitarian crises on Earth.
image via (cc) flickr user oldonliner
Along the approximately one hundred and twenty mile boarder shared by Norway and Russia, there sits a single, manned crossing station: Storskog, which lies a few miles east of the Norwegian town of Kirkenes. There, above the arctic circle, travelers and tourists alike flow between the two nations. Lately, however, it is an influx of refugees who have crossed into Scandinavia, seeking asylum. Raising eyebrows, though, is not necessarily *who* is doing the crossing, so much as how.
Storskog, via wikimedia commons
As Norwegian English-language news site The Local explains, the boarder agreement between Norway and Russia stipulates that no one may cross into Norway on foot, or in a car in which the driver does not, themselves, carry proper paperwork. The agreement, however, says nothing about bicycles. It’s a legal loop hole which has reportedly resulted in over one hundred and thirty refugees, many believed to be fleeing from the ongoing Syrian civil war, pedaling their way into the country.
Speaking with Kirkenes’ Sør-Varanger Avis newspaper, border officer Gøran Stenseth is quoted as saying that “[i]t 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.”
It is unclear what has happened to the asylum seekers once they crossed into Norway, but a recent poll by The Independant points to Norway as being the most tolerant of the European countries queried when it comes to helping Mediterranean migrants, with sixty percent being in favor. In neighboring Iceland over 10,000 of that country’s 329,000 citizens have pledged to welcome Syrian refugees into their homes after the Icelandic government’s announced last month that they would, in fact, only be accepting fifty refugees. The government has since said it would consider accepting more. Meanwhile, in Germany, soccer fans recently hoisted banners welcoming refugees to their country.
While there is no way of knowing for certain, it is estimated that upwards of four million refugees have fled Syria, as a result of ongoing violence in that country..
[via the local]