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Refugees Seeking To Cross Russian Arctic Border Lack Bikes

The flow of Middle Eastern migrants trying to reach Europe via the Russian Arctic has slowed dramatically, partly due to a shortage of bicycles needed to cross the border, officials said on October 29.

People seeking asylum in Norway must use bicycles to cross the border from Russia because pedestrian traffic is banned and vehicle drivers are fined if they carry passengers without proper documents.

Migrants attempting that route, many of them Syrians fleeing civil war, increased dramatically recently after a crackdown on people trying to enter through southern Europe.

A Russian official said local shops are running out of bikes, however, forcing about 500 migrants to wait in the border town of Nickel. Some tried to cross illegally, but were caught and fined.

Meanwhile, stacks of discarded Russian bikes have accumulated on the Norwegian side and are slated to be compressed and recycled as Norway does not consider them safe enough to use there.

The Arctic route is a more roundabout way of reaching Europe than crossing the Mediterranean, but it is safer. About 1,200 people made the journey this year.

Based on reporting by Reuters and CNN