The migrant route through Russia to Scandinavia

An growing number of refugees makes it to Norway through the Storskog border crossing point.

Refugees find Arctic route to Norway via Russia, but appear to shun neighboring Finland.


As the migrant crisis in Europe reaches new proportions, a growing number of refugees find the way through Russia to the northernmost part of Europe. In the first nine months of 2015, about 150 people without Schengen visas, most of them from Syria, made it across Russia to the Norwegian border town of Kirkenes.

There, they have been quickly taken care of by police and transported to reception centers in the southern part of the country.

Meanwhile, only few migrants make it to Finland. According to the Finnish Border Guard, a total of 26 irregular migrants were registered on land border crossing points with Russia in the course of the first seven months of 2015.

Only 26 irregular migrants made it into Finland from Russia first half 2015. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

In addition, nine persons were detected entering from Russia to Finland in areas between the border crossing points, the Border Guard analyst Marjo Joensuu says to BarentsObserver.

That is an increase compared with former years, but still far below the Norwegian numbers. In the same period 2014, a total of 12 irregular migrants were registered at the country’s border to Russia.

Finland has a 1300 km long border with Russia, while the Norwegian-Russian border is only about 200 km.

Finnish authorities have traditionally promoted a far more restrictive immigration policy than neighboring Norway and Sweden, and that might be a key the reason why refugees appear to stay away from the country.

The number of refugees crossing over from Russia to the Nordic countires is insignificant compared with other Schengen borders. However, the trend is clear and a growth in the numbers appears imminent.

”Given the situation in other parts of Europe, the number of refugees in the north is very low and can easily be handled”, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Refugee Council Pål Nesse says to BarentsObserver.

”This is still not a problem”, he underlines.

However, at the same time, he does not dare to predict whether the Arctic passage to Scandinavia actually could turn into a more significant migrant route.

Pål Nesse is senior adviser at the Norwegian Refugee Council.

”It is a human right to be able to apply for asylum, and this applies to everyone”, Nesse underlines, adding that there is nothing which prevents locals in the area to give refugees a lift across the border as long as there is no profiteering involved.

He fully supports, though, the Norwegian police crack-down on people involved in organized trafficking of people across the border. Police authorities in Eastern Finnmark now say that organized trafficking of people across the border is a growing trend and has announced that violators face prison terms of up to six years.