“The Arctic prison”: Refugees in limbo in Neiden, Norway


Ninety-six asylum seekers, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, are being housed in a hotel in the Arctic Circle town of Neiden. The temperature often drops as low as –30C, and there are only a few hours of daylight a day. Photographer Alessandro Iovino describes the challenges faced by the town’s latest inhabitants

Neiden is a Norwegian village of 100 inhabitants, 28 miles (45km) from Kirkenes, which is a major entry point for refugees and migrants on the ‘polar route’ to northern Europe. Since October more than 24,000 people haven entered Norway from Russia, crossing at the Storskog border station near Kirkenes. Most are Syrian and Afghan; others come from Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.

The Norwegian government did not expect so many arrivals. It has distributed the asylum seekers around various isolated towns and villages, mostly in the country’s north, with average populations of about 400.

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In the hotel, young people look at their phones. The refugees here are mostly in families of five or six. Things the refugees need, such as soap for washing with or milk for children, are rationed in very small quantities.

When I first arrived in Neiden I noticed there were no cafes or bakeries, no gas stations or shops, not even a cash machine. The conditions have been extreme, with temperatures often close to -30C.

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M Younos Yawar and his son walk in the field behind the hotel. The snow can reach a depth of 1.5 metres.



See more images here. (Original published in the Guardian)