The Russians are doing exactly the same with these Syrians as they did with Somalis just after the implosion of the USSR, in sending them to Finland.
“You can say that maybe about five to 20 people try it a month. There have been a couple of people who have tried by bicycle. The rest are being driven over in Russian cars. It’s very easy for them to cross – they can just sit in a Russian car, and come into Norway. And it’s legal.”
They tried the shores of Libya, the islands of Greece, and the plains of the Balkans. Now it has emerged that Syrians fleeing civil war have found another route to the safety of Europe: the Arctic Circle.
Dozens of Syrians have trekked to the far north of Russia this year in an unlikely bid to reach a little-known Arctic border crossing with Norway. Up to 20 Syrians a month are then crossing into the tiny Norwegian town of Kirkenes, which lies around 2,500 miles north of Damascus, and where the average daily temperature hovers just below freezing.
The town is the northernmost point of the Iron Curtain Trail, a cycle path that traces the boundary between western and eastern Europe during the cold war.
“It’s a relatively new thing – it started maybe half a year ago,” said superintendent Thomas Pettersen, the only policeman on duty in Kirkenes police station on Saturday.