The Norwegian authorities have begun sending the first of around 5,500 mainly Syrian refugees who’ve been housed in a transit camp in the north of the country, back to the Russian border they crossed last autumn.
Dozens of asylum seekers are resisting and have left the camp, around 30 others staged a brief hunger strike in protest.
Many are distressed and confused and demanding information. They cannot understand why they should be sent to Russia – it was only the route they had taken to get to Norway.
“(We’ve) no money, nowhere to go. We don’t speak Russian and once we cross the border, nobody will help us, “ said one refugee.
Critics of the government have said the attempts to return refugees to Russia put them at risk and contravene European Union human rights
Although Norway is not a member of the bloc, it is in the border free Schengen zone.
Last November Oslo announced it would deport people who had arrived from a safe country. The government considers Russia as safe but has not given the refugees opportunity to appeal the decision.
The move has come as part of a broader policy to reduce immigration to the country brought on by the success of right-wing parties during last September’s elections.
Under a deal agreed by a wide section of political parties, the government will reduce asylum seekers’ social benefits and speed up the processing of some cases and the expulsion of rejected asylum seekers.
The refugees being bussed to Russia had taken the so-called Arctic Route through Russia crossing the Norwegian border by bike as Russia doesn’t allow any one to cross by foot. Since the beginning of 2015 at least 29,000 people have used various route to seek asylum in Norway.