The New York Times reports from Kandalaksha: So many decrepit Soviet-era cars carried migrants into Europe from this frozen Russian town in recent months that border officials in Finland, who confiscate the rust-bucket vehicles as soon as they cross the frontier, watched in dismay as their parking lot turned into a scrapyard.
To clear up the mess and provide some space for freshly confiscated cars, the Finnish customs service set up a separate dumping ground.
Then last month, as suddenly and as mysteriously as it had started, the parade of migrants in rusty old cars came to an abrupt halt, or at least a pause.
“We don’t know what is going on,” said Matti Daavittila, the head of the ice-entombed Finnish border post near Salla. “They suddenly stopped coming. That is all we know.”
Compared with the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war or hardship who made the trek to Europe last year through Turkey to Greece, the flow of refugees and migrants on the Arctic route through Russia — first into Norway and later into Finland — is tiny.
But the stop-go traffic has added a hefty dose of geopolitical anxiety, not to mention intrigue, to a crisis that is tearing the European Union apart. It has sent alarm bells ringing in Helsinki, Finland’s capital far to the south, and in Brussels, where European Union leaders, at recent crisis meetings on migration, discussed the strange and ever-shifting Arctic route through Russia. [Continue reading…]