Storskog check-point counted 23,658 border-crossings in May 2015. This is 17.7 percent less than in May 2014. The total number of crossings so far this year is 101,853 – down 24.52 percent compared to the first five months of 2014.
The main reason for the decrease in traffic is the low exchange rate for the Russian ruble. Traditionally, much of the cross-border traffic are Russians driving over to Norway for shopping.
Stein Hansen with the police says to BarentsObserver that the most of the decrease is by people holding visas to Schengen or Russia. There were 7000 less people travelling with visas in May this year than last year.
Although the number of border-crossings is less than in 2014 and 2013, it is still higher than in 2012, and the downturn seems to be stabilizing somewhat.
The decline in January was 34 % compared to January 2014, while the numbers for the next four months were 27.5 %, 21.4 %, 21. 6% and 17.7 %.
The number of people using a border ID card when crossing the border is still increasing. Last month there were 4289 crossings by Norwegian border citizens and 2300 by Russian border citizens. In April the numbers were 3668 and 1701, respectively.
The visa-freedom travel was introduced in 2012 for local residents living less than 30 kilometres from the border. The area includes the Norwegian town of Kirkenes and the two Russian towns of Nikel and Zapolyarny.