|Mauricio Lima for The New York Times|
"Some of them, including Mr. Arslanuk, are Russian-speaking Syrians who were already living in Russia and see the border with Norway as a path to a better life at a time when Syrian citizenship generally confers refugee status in Europe. Others, having heard of the new route into Europe, are traveling through Russia to the border rather than taking the more established but riskier paths.
"For those who make it, the oddity of the route continues to the very end. A Russian ban on pedestrian traffic across the border at Storskog, and Norwegian threats to prosecute motorists who give rides to people without visas, mean that migrants, even young children and the infirm, have to use bicycles to complete the last few dozen yards of an exodus that in some cases began thousands of miles away.
"Once in Russia, it costs migrants only a few hundred dollars to secure transportation to the border and a bicycle, far less than the more than $1,500 that Turkish smugglers often charge to ferry migrants across the Aegean Sea to Greece.
"The bicycle-borne flow into Norway underscores not only the dogged determination of migrants but also Russia’s curious role in helping to drain the population from Syria, a country that President Vladimir V. Putin views as a vital ally and whose leader, Bashar al-Assad, he is now helping with bombing raids against the opposition.
“Putin loves Assad and Assad loves Putin, but neither of them like Syrians,” ..."