Russia Sunday confirmed it had shut for “security reasons” an Arctic border post with Norway to migrants being controversially returned from the Nordic country.
Norway Saturday said it was temporarily halting its return of migrants — mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq – who had entered from Russia following a request from the authorities there.
Some 5,500 migrants crossed from Russia into Norway last year, on the last leg of an arduous journey through the Arctic to Europe.
But the right-wing government in Oslo has decided that migrants who had been living legally in Russia, or had entered Russia legally, should be immediately returned there, on the basis that Russia is a safe country.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told AFP that Moscow had informed Norway Friday that it was halting the return of migrants through the Borisoglebsk-Storskog crossing in line with a 2011 bilateral agreement.
Exceptions will, however, be made for any migrants who can be shown to meet the criteria of an earlier agreement that obliges Moscow to readmit them if they do not fulfill Norwegian immigration laws and have valid Russian visas or residence permits.
“The steps taken by Russia were dictated by security reasons and based on bilateral agreements with Norway,” Zakharova said.