Arctic Migrants in Limbo as Russia Balks at Return From Nordics

  • Norway having `constructive' talks with Russia on impasse
  • Finland says wants to tackle refugee situation immediately

Almost 2,000 refugees that have made it to the Nordics via Russia are now in limbo as Finland and Norway seek to repel them back across the border in a brewing diplomatic spat.

Finland on Wednesday said about 1,000 ineligible refugees have arrived from Russia over the past months, while Norway is seeking the return of about 700 that have crossed its border in the far north.

“This is a new phenomenon and Finland has wanted to act immediately,” Interior Minister Petteri Orpo said at a press conference in Helsinki.

So far, the dispute between the nations has been low key and the discussions are being held at the diplomatic level. But it will be a topic on Friday, when the Russian and Finnish prime ministers meet in St. Petersburg.

Finland says most of the asylum seekers moving across the arctic region can’t be accepted since they have lived in Russia. Given its traditional ties with its largest neighbor, it is pushing for a quick resolution directly with Russia, rather than involving other members of the Schengen free movement area.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende has downplayed the dispute, calling the situation a “tempest in a teapot” in an interview with TV2. The country is having “constructive” discussions with Russia, he said.

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