Routes for Russians traveling to the Schengen countries have changed significantly since the end of September Finland has significantly restricted entry for our travelers with tourist visas. Now most of the tourist traffic goes through the only land gate to Schengen – the border with Norway in the very north.
This is the Storskog checkpoint, which currently remains the only land border with Europe open to Russians who have no other purpose for their tour than leisure or shopping, says the Barents Observer.
Info: Storskog – a settlement in Norway, in which the only regular automobile checkpoint on the Russian-Norwegian border is located. On the Russian side, the point is called Borisoglebsk.
Six times as many travelers crossed the Norwegian-Russian border in November compared to the combined traffic at Finland's two northernmost checkpoints in Lapland. At the Raya-Jooseppi and Salla checkpoints, 3,752 passengers were registered in September, and in October this number decreased by almost a third – only 1,385 people. In November, traffic dropped even more – only 1,130 people crossed the border between the Murmansk region and Finnish Lapland.
As in Finland, traffic at the Storskog (Borisoglebsk) checkpoint saw a sharp increase in traffic in the last week of September, as the flow of Russian men with Schengen passports rose sharply after the partial mobilization announced in the country, the publication noted.
But at the same time While Finland has banned our fellow citizens from entering or transiting the country since September 30 if the purpose is tourism, Norway has continued to keep its border open. The checkpoint Storskog today is actually the only land border with Schengen Europe, which receives Russians for the purpose of tourism and shopping.
The Norwegian government has decided not to follow the recommendation of Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who called for a pan-European decision to restrict the entry of Russian tourists into Europe. “It is not right that at the same time that Russia is holding a NWO, Russians can live a normal life, travel around Europe, be tourists. This is not right,” Marin told YLE broadcaster earlier.
In Storskog traffic increased between September and October and remained consistently high also in November, amounting to 6.943 and 6.941 crossings respectively. In addition, the number of those entering with Schengen visas exceeded the number of those leaving. In October, there were almost 1,300 more applications, and in November the difference was more than 300.
Eight people every day
In Finland, by comparison, in the first month after Helsinki imposed entry restrictions on tourist visa holders, border traffic at Salla and Raja-Jooseppi fell by a record 63%. Traffic was so low in November that the Finnish and Russian border authorities have now agreed to reduce opening hours in Salla. From the beginning of December, the checkpoint is open only from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm Finnish time, i.e. in Moscow from 11.00 to 15.00.
This November, 895 people crossed the border at Salla, while 235 crossed the border at Raya-Jooseppi, a newly renovated border crossing point on the road between Ivalo and Murmansk. That's an average of eight people a day. For comparison, in November of pre-Covid 2019, the traffic at these two checkpoints was 18,645 people.
The latest figures obtained by the Barents Observer from the Norwegian and Finnish border authorities show that in November there were six times more border crossings than the two northernmost border crossings in Finland combined.
The last land route to Europe may be closed
Visiting Norway's border with Russia earlier this autumn, Minister of Justice Emily Enger Mehl made it clear that all traffic changes are closely monitored. “The border can be closed in just a few hours after notification,” she told the publication.
Recall that Russians traveling on tourist visas can stay in Europe for no more than 90 days. In other words, those who “fled” after September 21 will have to return by Christmas at the latest.
Only fishing boats have free movement across the Norwegian border. They are still allowed to enter the ports of Tromsø, Botsfjord and Kirkenes. Seafarers do not need Schengen visas if they are in transit at a port where a ship is changing crew.
Norwegian police in charge of immigration control also told the publication that very few travelers in Storskog are denied entry – 5 people per October and 2 in November.
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