Norway nixes border surveillance helicopter despite Murmansk migrant queues

The police helicopter was on a short deployment on the border with Russia in March 2023. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

Despite hundreds of migrants queuing up in the Murmansk region with a strong will to make it to Europe, Norwegian police authorities are unwilling to send a helicopter north for surveillance along the remote wilderness border in polar night and freezing cold.

Murmansk governor Andrei Chibis says one person attempting to cross the border illegally is stopped. Situation is tense at Russia’s Lotta checkpoint with Raja-Jooseppi, the only still open border crossing to Finnish Lapland.

Norwegian police authorities, however, are still reluctant to send north a helicopter for border surveillance and rescue in case migrants try to make it into Norway in the wilderness.

“Whether the police helicopter should fly north is an assessment based on the needs of the police’s operational activities across the country,” says head of the Police Directorate’s Preparedness Section, Jørn Schjelderup, when asked why the helicopter is not already deployed to the border areas with Russia.

Last fall, when the Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl visited the border, the helicopter followed to strengthen surveillance, despite no migrants being reported from the Russian side of the border. Also in March, when Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt visited the border guards, the police helicopter flew north.

“The police helicopter was in Finnmark for a limited period in September 2022 and in March 2023 to help solve tasks related to increased surveillance along the border between Norway and Russia,” Schjelderup explains.

400 migrants in Murmansk region

Governor Chibis told state-controlled news agency Interfax that he is closely monitoring what happens on the Norwegian-Russian border.

In total, more than 400 migrants are in the Murmansk region, the governor informed.

None of the migrants have so far been directed by FSB towards the border with Norway.

Unlike Finland, Norwegian police use military border guards as their main asset to patrol the border with Russia in the terrain. The military has neither a permanent helicopter nor drones deployed for border surveillance.

Norway shares a 198 kilometer land border with Russia’s Murmansk region.

Related stories from around the North :

Finland: Finland could re-open eastern border before Christmas, Yle News

Norway : Border trouble not on agenda when FSB boss visited Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia : Cabinet postpones meeting on border crossings; Russia ‘deeply regrets’ Finnish moves, Yle News

Sweden: EU deploys additional border guards to Finland, Radio Sweden

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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