Being here in Blagoveshensk (for a conference on a different topic), I realise how cool this place is for border studies.
Please also see the comments to this post, interesting!
Surely most of us have followed the terrible news about drowning refugees desperate to
reach Europe – and many may have thought that “well all that’s what the poor people have to cope with there in the South, Sicily, Turkey, Greece.” But guess what: some refugees have opened the Arctic route for entering Europe. Colleague Patty Gray just alerted me to this article in the New York times, entitled “Bypassing the Risky Sea, Refugees Reach Europe Through the Arctic” by Andrew Higgins, check it out. As sad as it is that these people have to travel all the way up to the Arctic where they hardly intend to stay – this is probably an amazing case study for an ethnography of cross-border relations! As Anna Stammler-Gossmann has written, Arctic Russian border crossings like this were used by shuttle traders to bring car tyres, coffee, and clothes to Russia.
Now it’s people, and different from the southern European borders, they don’t need criminal people-traders to bring them. They can cross the border themselves! To be honest, several times already I was annoyed by this practice at the border that you are not allowed to cross it on foot. Therefore the poor refugees have to buy bicycles in the closest Russian town, Nickel’, just to cross the border and then get them confiscated by the Norwegians! What’s that good for? Above all, my cyclists’ heart hurts when I see all these nice bicycles piled up. But maybe someone doing an ethnography of this new migration route would identify this as modern-day resource distribution – but from refugees to one of the world’s richest countries – Norway.