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Norway To Build Border Fence To Keep Out Refugees

Norway is planning to build a fence on its border with Russia to prevent refugees from coming into the country.

The steel fence will be on the arctic border at the Storskog crossing point and is set to be 660 feet long and 11 feet high, according to Reuters. Nearly 5,500 refugees from Syria crossed through this border point in 2015.

The fence showcases shifting attitudes toward asylum seekers. While Norway was once known as a safe haven for refugees, the new border is telling a different story.

"The gate and the fence are responsible measures," said Deputy Justice Minister Ove Vanebo to Reuters.

Norway isn't the only country tightening regulations. Sweden, a country often called a "humanitarian superpower," is also increasing border controls and implementing identification checks, according to The Washington Post.

The new measures come as thousands of refugees are applying for asylum in both countries, putting a strain on the countries' resources. In Norway, more than 23,000 Syrians applied for refugee status in 2015, according to The Independent. In the first quarter of 2016, the number of refugees actually being allowed into the country has dropped by 95 percent.

In Sweden, the numbers are even higher. Around 160,000 Syrian refugees entered the country in 2015. The country claims it can no longer handle the influx of people, and if thousands more asylum seekers enter in 2016, the whole system could break.

"We’re willing to do more than anyone else," said Swedish Migration Minister Morgan Johansson to The Washington Post. "But even we have our limits."

As Norway attempts to contain its refugee problem, activists are pushing back, saying a border fence can send the wrong message.

"We've an obligation to be a country people can flee to," Linn Landro, spokesman for the Norwegian Refugees Welcome group, told Reuters. "The fence sends a very negative signal, including to Russia because it says that 'we don't trust you.'"

Russia has yet to complain about the proposed border fence. Refugees have been entering countries through the arctic as it is less risky than crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat.

The fence will be constructed before winter sets in and workers have already been clearing the area in preparation, reports the Independent.

Sources: Reuters, Independent, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Denise Chan/Flickr

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