Norway to build border fence with Russia to keep out refugees

'There are too many fences going up in Europe today,' local mayor says

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 25 August 2016 09:27 BST
Two refugees on bikes cross the boarder between Norway and Russia
Two refugees on bikes cross the boarder between Norway and Russia (CORNELIUS POPPE/AFP/Getty Images)

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Norway is building a steel fence at its arctic border with Russia after an influx of thousands of refugees last year.

The new fence, which will be around 660 feet long and 11 feet high, will stretch from the Skorskog border point, sources in the Norwegian government told Reuters.

Construction of the fence is due to finish before winter frosts set in, making it harder to enter Norway through the forest.

Deputy Justice Minister Ove Vanebo defended the gate and fence, telling Reuters they were "responsible measures".

Although around 23,000 people, mostly from Syria, applied for refugee status in Norway last year, the number of asylum seekers arriving plummeted by 95 per cent in the first third of 2016.

“I can’t see a need for a fence,” Rune Rafaelsen, the mayor of the Soer-Varanger region which includes the border, told Reuters. “There are too many fences going up in Europe today,” he added, citing examples of barbed wire in nations such as Hungary.

Linn Landro, of the Refugees Welcome group in Norway, said: "We've an obligation to be a country people can flee to.

"The fence sends a very negative signal, including to Russia because it says that 'we don't trust you'."

Last year, Russia and Norway battled to repeatedly reject the same refugees.

Norway said it would begin sending refugees who have Russian residency permits back to Russia, arguing it had received no "satisfactory" explanation from Russia as to why it sent so many refugees to Norway rather than Finland.

Refugees used bicycles to cross the Arctic border, because Russian border police do not allow on-foot crossings and it is illegal to cross the Norwegian border if the driver does not have the correct papers.

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