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Some migrants are making their way to Europe via Russia — and on bikes

Many migrants trying to get to Europe travel via the Mediterranean to Italy or Greece. But in recent months, refugees from places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have started to flow via a different route, through Russia.

Andrew Higgins, who has written about this new path for the New York Times, says most of these migrants end up in Moscow and then take a plane or a train up to Murmansk, a port city in northern Russia, and then a taxi or a minibus to Nikel, a Russian town near the border with Norway.

The last leg of the trip, which is from the border posts in Russia to Norway. The Russian government prohibits pedestrian traffic at the border crossing, which means many of the migrants continue the journey on bicycles.

Higgins says “entrepreneurs” are making the most of this situation.

“[They] charge hundreds of dollars to buy a crappy Russian bike, which is used for all of five minutes, 10 minutes,” he says.

Once in Norway, he adds, the police confiscate the bikes, claiming they are not up to Norwegian standards.

“That’s because they only have one handbreak, while in Norway you must have two handbreaks,” Higgins explains.

So why do migrants prefer this route over going through the Mediterranean? Higgins says there are two main reasons.

First, it’s a lot safer than going by sea. “Those routes are very dangerous,” says Higgins.

Another reason is that it’s a lot cheaper. Higgins explains that if you go from the coast of Turkey to Greece, it costs around 1300 euros ($1500) to get a boat ride.

“But if you go from Russia, it’s just a couple of hundred dollars to get to Murmansk and then you’ll need a few more hundred dollars to buy a bicycle,” he says.

Still, the number of migrants making the journey via Russia is much smaller compared to the one from Greece and Italy. But as the word gets out, more migrants will take their chance at reaching a better life, via northern Russia.

From PRI's The World ©2015 Public Radio International

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