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Winter is coming - and refugees are finding new ways to tackle the perilous journey to Europe

Hundreds of desperate migrants and refugees have cycled from Russia to Norway - some on children’s bikes - in order to start a new life.

No-one is allowed to cross the Arctic border between Russia and Norway on foot, so migrants have been buying bikes from Russian traders to cycle the final metres of their journeys.

To avoid the dangerous sea crossings into Italy and Greece, many migrants are now crossing the globe overland, travelling up into Russia and across the Arctic circle to Norway, and some onwards into its EU neighbours, Finland, Sweden and beyond.

According to the BBC, “in the whole of 2014 just seven asylum seekers crossed over the Storskog border crossing - this October alone there have been 1,100. Some are from Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon but most are from Syria.”

One man described how he paid £130 for a tiny child’s bike and a taxi to the border, where he rode the final 120 metres to Norway.

He says it's a "small price to pay" to get to Europe.

A large stack of a hundred or so bicycles - many brand new and parts coated in bubble wrap - has been left at the border point, where buses are used to bring refugees to a reception centre in the small nearby town of Kirkenes.

Every two or three days they are collected up, taken away and crushed - their quality so shoddy the cannot even be given away.

Police expect more and more to begin to take this route over winter as the Mediterranean becomes stormier and more dangerous to cross.

Last week we reported how a community group is crowd funding a campaign to bring bikes to the refugee camps in Calais - to ease the lives of the thousands of people living and working there.

Calais Bicycle Aid is making a trip to the area to bring reconditioned bikes and parts, along with a team of mechanics who will work for five days to make sure everyone’s bikes are in good working order.

The plan is to increase the number of refugees who have access to a bike, contribute to the aid work already taking place and support bike repair workshop sessions.

The organisers say: “Access to a working bicycle has a big impact on day to day life for refugees in Calais.

“Visiting the distribution centre or the government office to check on an asylum application is at least a 5 mile round trip, which on foot can easily take 2 hours.”

Through a crowdfunding website, the group is £180 away from achieving its £800 target, and individuals can pledge the price of an individual part, like a lock or a bike repair kit, or a hostel bed for a travelling mechanic.

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.