Svetlana Gannushkina passed the road of refugees.
The chairman of the Civic Assistance Committee, a member of the board of the International Memorial, Svetlana Gannushkina, traveled north along the border to Norway. And returned with a story about bicycles, Norway’s migration innovations and why Russia is left even by those who can stay here.
Svetlana Gannushkina: last week I was able to visit the border three times, where the Syrians, Afghans and Africans desperate to get refuge in Russia, dozens of people per day move to Norway.
The mass flight from Russia to Norway began in August this year. The border was crossed per day to 200 people. In total, in a small country with a population of 5 million people in a short time from us, more than 5 thousand people arrived.
The authorities of Norway were not ready for this, and the local population of the border city of Kirkenes took over the load first: they helped with food, clothing, transport.
The Norwegian Red Cross was involved in the work, specifically the project “Friend”, which received funding from the ICRC, was developed specifically to help refugees. Only in October, the authorities entered into a contract with a commercial organization to set up a camp in Kirkenes.
I heard that the locals were somewhat offended by the fact that they were taken to work in the camp by “southerners” – people sent from Oslo.
Now the flow is reduced, on the day still cross the border of about 20 people.
Our longtime colleagues from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC) invited me to visit the refugee camp in Kirkenes, see how the refugees are accommodated there, get acquainted with the latest changes in Norwegian legislation, which complicates our asylum seekers in Norway for their escapees. And with my own eyes see how refugees cross the border between our countries.
I flew to Murmansk, where local activists met me and took me to Kirkenes. There they had a seminar for local residents, for some reason it was interesting to learn about the problems of our NGOs related to the law on “foreign agents”.
On the way to the village of Titovka, we met a group of refugees, about ten people, waiting for transport to be delivered to the border.
The first crossing of the border was not particularly interesting. We all had visas. We got out of the car, our frontier guards put passports on our passports. We again got into the car and moved the border, went out again, got to press on the Norwegian border and drove on.
At 4 o’clock in the evening it was already completely dark, the polar night began. Only one family of refugees with three children was waiting for documents to be checked. They speak Russian well, lived 5 years in the Krasnodar Territory, they could not be legalized. Answer the questions cautiously, a boy of 12 only translates what the grandmother says. The four-year-old was born in Russia.
In Kirkenes we met with members of the NHC, led by their unchallenged chairman Bjorne Engesland and went to the refugee camp.
There we got acquainted with the Norwegian Organization for the Protection of the Rights of Asylum Seekers, which advises refugees in the camp on legal and other matters. Everyone speaks individually in his language.
In this photo, Bjorn, I and members of this non-governmental organization are real citizens of Norway, only one of them is still waiting for a passport. The organization has an agreement with the state, they have interviewed more than 1,000 refugees from different countries.
Many refugees for a long time – more than ten years lived in Russia. Some of them are granted temporary asylum. Refugees say they got it for money, but they were not enough for all family members, so they decided to leave Russia.
Our colleagues from the NHC and the activists working in the camp are very concerned about the recently adopted amendments to the Norwegian legislation, which now provides for an expedited procedure. They are afraid that they will not be able to work with refugees and explain their legislation before the first interview.
The Norwegian authorities claim that 90% of the arrivals are economic migrants. Activists believe that people begin to talk about themselves, indeed indicating economic reasons. But they do not have time to explain that the source of problems is politics and military actions.
Activists do not yet fully understand the changes that have been made. An instruction has been sent, but it is also not entirely clear. Several problems are mentioned:
– It is not always clear how the duties are distributed in the camp, it is necessary to look for the person responsible for social and other issues. There are beds, and a woman with a child sleeps on the floor;
– If the shelter is denied, then the country should be left for three days, but people do not have money, they do not know about the existence of the IOM, which should help them to leave;
– There is no clear information on who will apply the accelerated procedure: an interview within three hours and a reply after 48 hours, which must come from Oslo;
– the migration service, which instructs them to advise asylum seekers, does not give them full information;
– Perhaps the migration authorities themselves do not yet have this information, but they must already work in a new way;
– changes occurred without a transition period.
If we summarize everything that the activists told us about the innovations and the leadership of the camp the next day, they are as follows:
Arrived in Norway from Russia, the refugees will be interviewed directly on the border. Based on the first interview, the decision will be made in Oslo.
Those who have the right to legally stay in Russia, will return to Russia.
Citizens of countries that do not go to war will be sent home. This applies to the citizens of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the inhabitants of peaceful areas of Afghanistan.
The rest will be accepted by the camp, where they will spend some time, and then they will go to other cities and towns of Norway.
Camp – from scratch in 20 days.
The next day in the morning we again went to the refugee camp, where at that time there were 285 people. There we met his chief Henry Oshima.
The camp was established just three weeks before our visit. Before that, people lived in a sports complex. There are 285 places in the camp, but more than a thousand people have already passed through it. It took only 20 days to create it from scratch. Mr. Oshima is very proud of him and his staff.
In the camp, the refugees first enter the primary reception hall, where they are offered fruit, so that they immediately feel the hospitality of the host country. They are completely disguised, and their clothes are packed and sent to freeze out for 48 hours. A test for tuberculosis is also conducted.
In the hall there is information in Arabic, English and Russian, not very pleasant for arrivals.
After changing clothes people are sent for interviews, and are arranged for the duration of their stay in the camp in demountable houses.
We looked at how the refugees lived there, shamelessly breaking their sleep.
Few wanted to talk to us or let us take pictures. However, I also had a few old acquaintances there.
It was sad to hear their answer to my question: how is their position different from what they experienced in Russia. “Here we are treated like people!” Everyone said.
There in the camp we met with the Syrian Omar, he himself wanted to take a photo with me. In our organization he met Anya – a young woman from Ukraine. They lived together for a year, Anya awaits a child. Both of them very much want to connect. Omar handed over the money remaining for him to Anya after paying for his trip.
I really want their story to have a happy ending.
Together with Lene Vetteland of the NHC, we went to Murmansk across the border. Refugees were not there this time. Only one set up his bicycle.
Why bicycle? And because we humans are amazing creatures. Generally speaking, with logic we are not too cool. But, when it is not necessary, it suddenly appears.
The point of crossing the border through which we entered Norway is the border crossing point for vehicles. We overcame it by car. But the refugees carry the carriers only to the border, but you can not cross it on foot.
Why not? And because it is for vehicles. And such a vehicle becomes a bicycle – from three-wheeled to the largest. They buy it and drive it to the border.
There he is collected and the border is moved to him. And what about me, if I do not know how to ride a bicycle?
I was told that everything is simple: keep him behind the wheel and drive alongside. That is, I’m not on a bicycle, but with a bicycle. What is the point, I think, would not understand any sensible Martian. But the fact is that for the joy of bicycle manufacturers the demand for them is huge in Murmansk.
In addition, this bicycle is a one-time operation. After crossing the border, it should be discarded. It is impossible to fix the return of bicycles to Russia: the Norwegians do not agree to this. And not because they want to use them themselves – it’s just that he did not enter as a commodity, but as a vehicle.
Hence, and can only return together with the passenger, and the passenger does not want to return. And Norwegians can not ride our bicycles, because our bicycles do not meet the Norwegian requirements – they do not have any second brake there.
They send them straight to the scrap. This is such a sad fate for them, and human rights do not apply to them.
The next day I again traveled to the border with the carrier and two refugees. One of them was a refugee from Syria, and spent only two days in Russia. The money for the trip was provided by parents who wanted to save him from the war. The second – from Iraq – lived in Russia for 8 years.
On the way to us from the forest came out a brave fox, she stood for a long time and waited for us to offer her something to eat. Unfortunately, we did not have any food with us. Apparently, good refugees usually fed her.
This time the refugees were brought to the border in several minibuses. In one there was a large family of Afghans with a lot of children: from infancy to adolescence.
Our Iraqi was not allowed to pass through the Russian border: something did not like his passport. A week later he came to our “Civic Assistance”. He needed urgent help in appealing against the decision on expulsion.
This decision he himself initiated, because without him our border guards do not let foreign citizens from Russia, if they do not have a valid visa or other basis for legal residence. This is a direct violation of part 2 of Art. 27 of the Russian Constitution: “Everyone can freely travel outside the Russian Federation.” Our lawyer wrote a complaint to him, but how the Moscow City Court will look at her is a big question.
In Murmansk, we met with the Norwegian consul and his staff. And all, first of all journalists, asked me the same question: who organized this stream of refugees from Russia to Norway?
The answer is simple: no one! Word of mouth is transmitted information that there is an opportunity to be where you are treated humanly. And, of course, people try not to miss their chance to get into such a place.
Ask, a little quieter, another question: why do not they go to Finland? So, there is reliable information that they are already going. So soon we’ll have to go watch how the refugees are getting Finns.
And yet, journalists and human rights activists asked me how I feel about Norway tightening its laws and striving to stop the flow of refugees.
What can I say to this? Of course, the right to apply for asylum and receive it, if there are grounds for that, must be protected. But how can I, a Russian citizen, say that Norway should do this, if in my country this right is simply completely ignored?
Some exception, which was Ukrainian refugees, only confirms this rule. It is sad to admit this, and there is nothing to answer the journalists’ questions. I think that my Norwegian colleagues invited me in the first place so that their authorities would hear from me the decisive word of condemnation. Well, I’m afraid I disappointed them.
Svetlana Gannushkina, the chairman of the Civic Assistance Committee, a member of the board of the International Memorial,