The New York Times recently reported about an interesting twist in the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.
Instead of risking their lives to make the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean in a flimsy boat or rubber dinghy to one of the ports in Greece, Italy and elsewhere where migrants are flocking, some are choosing instead a land route that includes a final stretch by bike.
The route culminates at a border crossing some 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle where refugees are made to pedal from Russia into Storskog, Norway.
It’s a back-door route becoming increasing popular because of the reputation spreading via social media, especially, of Norway’s favorable treatment of asylum seekers. They reach the remote Northern-most European outpost by means of a paid journey of thousands of miles, in some cases, by motor vehicle, train, plane or some combination – transit that is said to cost far less than the riskier but much more direct routes by sea.
Just take a peek at a map to get a feeling for what an incredibly lengthy journey it is.
The strangeness of crossing the border by bike is, according to the Times article, necessitated by a quirky Russian law, and Norwegian threats against motorists:
“For those who make it, the oddity of the route continues to the very end. A Russian ban on pedestrian traffic across the border at Storskog, and Norwegian threats to prosecute motorists who give rides to people without visas, mean that migrants, even young children and the infirm, have to use bicycles to complete the last few dozen yards of an exodus that in some cases began thousands of miles away.”
And while those who recently crossed have done so in weather with temperatures dropping to freezing, but no snow yet, the weather hammer will drop soon in the region, and the refugees often make the journey with no cold weather clothing at all. “The next stop is the North Pole,” said one refugee profiled in the Times article.
Another, from Afghanistan, shrugged off the weather in explaining his own journey: “I don’t need the sun, I just need a normal life,” he said, “to live somewhere normal without bomb explosions.”
Click to read the full New York Times article.