Immigration is one of the biggest topics that is being talked about in today’s society, especially as refugees around the world are seeking safety in different countries and the never ending discussion between the United States-Mexico border rages on. Europe has had several countries start to decrease the amount of refugees that they are taking in, and now some countries are looking to keep them out altogether.
Norway is the latest country that is developing a fence in hopes of keeping out refugees, and they are actually doing it on the border of Russia. The border that joins Norway and Russia is in a remote area with an arctic climate that previously made the border ignored for the most part. Many refugees from countries like Syria were taking advantage of this by getting into Russia and then making the trek into Norway across the border. The refugees have been doing so on bicycles as you cannot cross on foot and vehicles are only allowed with proper documentation.
Norway’s new border fence will hope to prevent another incoming flow of refugees. The fence will register at 11 feet in height and extend for a bit more than 1/10th of a mile in a section of forest where refugees were coming in. Many people were concerned about the increasing number of refugees as there were nearly 25,000 that applied to live within the country in just one year alone. Naturally, the addition of the fence has been polarizing.
Rune Rafaelsen is the mayor of Soer-Varanger, which is the section of Norway where the border fence is located. He contested, saying that “I can’t see a need for a fence. There are too many fences going up in Europe today.” Deputy Justice Minister Ove Vanebo disagreed with Rafaelsen, saying that building fences on the borders were “responsible measures.”
Seeking refugee status in Russia has been much easier, but the quality of life in Norway has been notoriously high, ranking third in the Where to be Born Index behind only Switzerland and Australia. Russia, on the other hand, ranked 72nd. Once Norwegian officials have been finding refugees with Russian status, they have been sending them back to Russia. Norway has also said that Russia has never explained why the refugees are coming to their country, but not Finland.
Linn Ladro is a member of Refugees Welcome in Norway, and she says the fence sends the wrong message to Russia. “We’ve an obligation to be a country people can flee to,” she said. “The fence sends a very negative signal, including to Russia because it says ‘we don’t trust you.’” Ladro is one of the many people that accepts that more than 5,000 refugees have entered the country through that section of the border alone.
Russia, however, has not expressed any problem with Norway’s fence. As a matter of fact, they have a fence of their own that sits well onto their side of the border and reaches more than 100 miles in length. Visitors between the two countries are allowed to enter for short periods without the need for a visa, and it’s estimated that a quarter million Russians and Norwegians make the trip across the border each year.