00:57 GMT28 January 2020
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    Norway's plan to build a fence along its border with Russia is a precautionary measure taken with the aim of increasing the effective of the country’s border controls and not with the expectation of a migrant influx, a spokesman for the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security told Sputnik on Thursday.

    MOSCOW, August 25 (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, media reports emerged that in the coming days Norway would start building a fence about 660 feet long and more than 10 feet high at the Storskog Arctic border post near Russia to deter refugees.

    "The Norwegian government has decided to upgrade the technical infrastructure at Storskog crossing point to be able to fulfill all the requirements when it comes to controlling the land border with Russia, it is a part of an obligation to be able to have effective border control and border surveillance. It is a measure of precaution," Tom Brunsell said.

    He explained that it was planned that the border fence would be erected "before the ground is freezing," and that the move was in no way connected to any assumptions that more migrants might try to enter Norway via the so-called Artic migration route.

    "To be honest we have no indications that make us believe there will be another wave of migration border crossing," Brunsell said.

    Last year, a total of 5,500 migrants crossed the Norwegian-Russian border at Storskog with just 67 of those being accepted as legitimate asylum seekers by the authorities of the Scandinavian country. According to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, no one has used the northern frontier so far this year to enter Norway in order to seek asylum.

    The border fence plans have provoked criticism from some Norwegian lawmakers and activist groups saying a barrier to prevent people fleeing war and persecution from coming to Norway was an unwelcome echo of the Cold War.

    The mayor of the northern Norwegian border municipality of Sor-Varanger, Rune Gjertin Rafaelsen, told Sputnik on Thursday that fences of any kind fundamentally contradict the principle of a "civil approach."

    "As a Mayor of Sør-Varanger it is very important to have a civil approach at the border. We have worked for more cross-border activity for more than 20 years. For me the fact that 5,000 (half of the population) in my town has got the local traffic agreement (visa-free travel) is what I mean is a civil approach," he said, without elaborating on how the fence would hamper these agreements.

    Last year, Norway saw a record of 31,000 migrants seek asylum, but following the introduction of border controls and new restrictive policies by the government the number of such applicants has dramatically decreased.

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