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The Arctic Prison is a report about the refugees kept for almost three months in a very small village in the northern of Norway called Neiden.
Neiden is a village of 100 inhabitants, located at 45 km from Kirkenes which is one of the main cities of the northern territory and has been recently the principle door for all the refugees coming through what is considered the polar route.
From middle of October on, a huge flow of refugees, over 5000 people, came to Norway crossing in Russia the cities of Moscow, Murmansk and Nikel and entering through the Storskoog border close to the city of Kirkenes. Most of them are Syrian and Afghan, although, there are a lot of people coming also from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan.

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A significant amount of people who is taking this route, have been in a way or another residing in the Russian Federation working legally or illegally since their country crisis started in 2011
They decide to leave Russia, either because the local mafia have closed their activities or because they want to send them back to their own country.
Some of them they get the risk of crossing this very supervised border, because they want to try to earn more money and stay in a safer environment.
The other half is escaping from wars and poverty.
( I covered the story of this new route, from Moscow to Kirkenes, for futher information contact me).

The Norwegian government didn’t expect such a great amount of people coming in their small country, it wasn’t prepared at all, logistically and mentally.

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Norway, Neiden, 23/01/2016 This picture shows one of the refugees with his son, one of three, doing a walk in the field behind the hotel. The snow in this period can reach 1.5 meters height and every action becomes difficult. In this scene the father bring on his shoulder the son that otherwise would have been able to walk.

This picture shows one of the refugees with his son, one of three, doing a walk in the field behind the hotel. The snow in this period can reach 1.5 meters height and every action becomes difficult. In this scene the father bring on his shoulder the son that otherwise would have been able to walk.

Since the beginning of these new migration to the northern territories, in mid October, the Norwegian government has sorted them from one village to another, most of them places in the northern part of the country, villages and town like Vadso and Neiden for example, or city like Alta.
Although, we need to call them cities or town, the average of population in these places is around 400 people and the mentality of the inhabitants it is not surely ready to welcome asylum sicker. Most of these places are remote and isolated fiord’s towns where the temperature now is everyday between -20 and– 40 degrees.

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The Artic prison is a report focused on the life of refugees in the village of Neiden, where the emptiness and loneliness are the main protagonists, “ When I first arrived in Neiden I’ve noticed that to my surprise, there were no cafes or bakeries, no gasoil stations or shops, not even cash machine!”.

Norway, Kirkenes, Airport, 21/01/2016 view of the outside of the Kirkenes airport. All is cover in snow and the temperature outside is 30 degrees below zero.


view of the outside of the Kirkenes airport. All is cover in snow and the temperature outside is 30 degrees below zero.

When you walk along the main road, the only one there is in Neiden, you don’t meet people, all the inhabitants living this village are spread out in the vast forest surrounding the area.
The closest city where you can buy food is Kirkenes, 45 km away, on the other side you have Finland that you can reach in 40 minutes and stop in a rest area furnished of a gasoil station and a super market. After that, the closest opportunity to find humans traces is to go further inside Finland, in the city of Ivalo, 195 km away, 3 hours drive.
The climate condition since my arrival in Neiden, have been very extreme, the temperature had always been close to – 30/-34, sometimes snowing as well. This climate condition and the desolation surrounding the refugees, had influenced the life of their life so far, making them depressed and unhappy.

Norway, Neiden, 24/01/2016 A group of refugees walking after breakfast in the town of Neiden. The cold is extreme but they don't have proper clothes.

A group of refugees walking after breakfast in the town of Neiden. The cold is extreme but they don’t have proper clothes.

Moreover, except three buckets of donated warm clothes, the refugees are not equipped for this winter, they brought only normal winter clothes appropriate for their country. When they walk outside they often have inly a j sweatshirt and training shoes.
All of them, 96 people, among which 36 children, stay at the Neiden Hotel, an old hotel closed during the winter season, and now used as a refugee camp.
Between the 96 refugees there is a majority of Afghan and Syrian, but in a minority part also Iraqi and Lebanese.
Refugees settled here, are mostly families of 5 or 6 people, I met also few guy travelling alone, but they had been moved to other camps, ( I met 2 of them that told me their incredible testimonies, one is Khalid Zarmal and Shafiq Seddifi, for their story do not hesitate to ask me information)
The situation of these people after 2/3 month of permanence in Neiden is very unclear, nobody tell them what they have to expect for their future, these people stay just inside the hotel following a dramatic routine made by the breakfast at 9 o’clock with jam, butter and tuna, watching news on the television, little walk outside and then lunch and dinner respectively at 4pm and 7pm, the dinner has the same menu of breakfast.
Everything else asked from the refugees, as washing soap or milk for children, is hard to have it or at least it is given in very small quantity, almost ridicules.
This routine, kills completely every drops of life that this people still could have, doing nothing is the worst punishment to add at their already tragic life conditions, some of them are even thinking to go back to their places ( Afghanistan and Syria ), just to “move” something. They would like to go to the supermarket and buy fruits, to do some gym and to take their children somewhere, but the reality in Neiden is different.

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One of the refugees few days ago told me. “ I escaped from hell and I end it up in another”.
Furthermore, for the past two weeks, has been discussing the possibility to deport all of them back to Russia, but Russia answered that don’t want them anymore, “ Russia has already took as much as possible from us”, said one of the refugees.
There is now an extremely confused climate, where lots of refugees not considered “asylum seekers” are being put in a bus with not more than 10 minutes notice and send to the Russian border, once they arrive there, the Russian close their gates and send them back again to Norway.
Most of the families that I met in Neiden, had spent between 10.000 to 20.000 $ to come to Norway, few of them even over 28.000$, according to how many times they have been con in Russia.
The reality is that these people, want only to live in a safer country, doesn’t matter which one, they are willing to work and create a new life.
The Artic life in villages like Neiden makes life of these people in some way, more extreme and difficult of the reality hey have escaped from.

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Norway, Neiden, 24/01/2016 The twilight in Norway at this point of the season is at 2pm, here a view of the emptyness around the town.

The twilight in Norway at this point of the season is at 2pm, here a view of the emptyness around the town.

The police and the manager of the hotel have interrupted this project, after 6 days of permanence in Neiden, they arrested me and deported me beck to Italy because I was trying to do my job.

I have asked the refugees to take pictures with their phones inside the hotel and of their routine, if interested do not hesitate to ask me.

For further information or images do not hesitate to contact me.

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