WORLDPOST

Photos Capture Syrian Refugees On Polar Route From Russia To Norway

Photographer Alessandro Iovino followed the Syrian Alsaid family on their journey.

11/05/2015 07:31 am ET | Updated Nov 09, 2015
Alessandro Iovino
Mansour examining an abandoned boat. He told me, "I've been traveling my whole life, nothing's new to me. It would be very difficult to surprise me." Vadso, Norway. October 2015.

There is a new migration route to Europe that is safer and less expensive than the ones through the Balkans or across the Mediterranean: the Arctic route. 

Roughly 1,200 migrants and refugees have made a one-way bike trip across the Russia-Norway border, escaping the barbed-wire fences, strict border police and other hardships that others have faced on their way to European countries. 

The International Organization for Migration estimates that 680,000 refugees and migrants have made their way to Europe by sea this year, and according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 3,400 people have died or gone missing en route to Europe.

Photographer Alessandro Iovino of the Cesura collective followed the Syrian Alsaid family on their journey from Russia to Norway.

The Arctic route is used primarily by Syrians who first took refuge in Russia following political turbulence in 2011. Now, they are forced to flee for a second time for different reasons, including fear of forced repatriation, pressure from the Russian mafia or simply in search of better economic circumstances. 

Alessandro Iovino
The Alsaid family at The Polar Light Hotel in Nickel. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.

Other refugees traveled to Russia years ago from countries like Jordan and Egypt, or just arrived in Russia on a tourist visa

The journey to Europe often starts in cities like Moscow or St. Petersburg. From there, the refugees travel to Murmansk, which is located in the far north of the country and just 32 kilometers from the Barents Sea, near Russia's border with Norway. 

Some refugees have enough funds for the expensive taxi ride from the Murmansk airport to Kirkenes in Norway. Others spend a couple of days in hotels like the Park Inn or Azimut in Murnmansk before they head by bus or taxi to Nickel, in Russia's Siberia, near the Norwegian border. 

There, they buy secondhand bicycles -- which can cost between $150 and $200 -- to make the last stretch to Norway. Only 50 meters separate the last Russian checkpoint and the European border, but a law prohibits crossing them on foot.

Once they've reached Kirkenes, the refugees leave the bicycles by the side of the road. Thus ends a voyage that costs roughly $2,000. 

Alessandro Iovino

While the trip is less dangerous than the Mediterranean route, it is not without hazards.

Smugglers sometimes try to extort the refugees or keep them on Russian soil longer than necessary -- often until immediately before their visas expire.

Follow the Alsaids on their way in Iovina's powerful photos: 

  • Alessandro Iovino
    A statue of Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov. Moscow, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Sex shop. Moscow, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    The Red Square by night. Murmansk, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Overview of the city. Murmansk, Russia.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Snow-coated cars. Murmansk, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Portrait of a boy outside a military school. Murmansk, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Murmansk, Russia.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Buildings dating back to the Soviet regime. Murmansk, Russia.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Cars in snow in Murmansk, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    A migrant stands by Semenovskoe Lake in Murmansk, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    A man walking home from work, at a factory in Nikel. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Nikel from above. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    The Hotel Polar Light in Nikel, where refugees stay. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    The Alsaid family at The Polar Light Hotel in Nikel. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Alsaid buys bread for his family in Nikel. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Preparations before departure. Drivers and migrants load bikes and luggage into vans. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Alsaid's son in the street with fresh bread. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • A taxi driver stands outside The Polar Light Hotel in Nikel. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    A boy fixes a car at night. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    A refugee walking down the road That leads to Kirkenes. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    A man walks among buildings in the little border town. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Bikes strapped to one of the black market taxis. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Mansour disassembles his bike so he can load it into the car and take it to the Norwegian border. Everything takes place right outside the hotel: the taxi Belongs to a black market taxi driver hired by the hotel manager. Nickel, Russia. October 2015.
  • Refugees cross the Norwegian border, arriving by bike from the last Russian checkpoint. Kirkenes, Norway. October 2015.
  • The entrance to the refugee camp in Vadso. A Syrian child rides a bike beneath Norwegian flags. Vadso, Norway. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    A policeman on the Norwegian border. Kirkenes, Norway. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    The Kirkenes countryside. Kirkenes, Norway. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    A group of elderly men sit at a bakery. People express anger about the huge influx of refugees in the country. Vadso, Norway. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Portrait of two women in the refugee Fjellhallen gym, Which is now a refugee camp. Kirkenes, Norway. October 2015.
  • Alessandro Iovino
    Mansour examining an abandoned boat. He says: "I've been traveling my whole life, nothing's new to me. It would be very difficult to surprise me." Vadso, Norway. October 2015.

CORRECTION: The fourth photo caption has been updated. The statue is of Georgy Konstantinovich Zhukov, not Lenin.

This story originally appeared on HuffPost Italy. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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