Migrant flow halted at policed Russia-Norway border
Norwegian police were stationed right on the border at the Schengen area’s northernmost checkpoint on Monday, tasked with preventing entry by people without the zone’s visa.
Since the start of the year, more than 5,000 migrants have crossed into Norway from Russia. Most are from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The route is longer, but safer, than crossing the Mediterranean.
Norway last week announced it would send back to Russia those migrants who held Russian residence permits or visas, since that country is deemed safe for refugees.
But between November 25-29, Russia turned back 37 of those people to Norway, in all likelihood because they held single-entry visas. It meanwhile accepted in 23 others who held multiple-entry visas.
Norway, a country of 5.2 million, is not a member of the EU, but it is a member of Europe’s Schengen zone, whose internal borders have been scrapped.
It has received some 30,000 asylum applications since the start of the year.
Most applicants have arrived in Norway via neighbouring Sweden, but since that country reinstated border controls on November 12 the flow has steadily declined: last week only 968 people sought asylum in Norway compared to 2,108 the previous week, a number that nonetheless remains much higher than normal.