Life for Refugees Above the Arctic Circle

Riksgränsen is a small Swedish town 200 km north of the polar cirkel right on the border to Norway until early 80´s the only communication by land was via the railway that transports Iron for the Swedish town of Kiruna to the Norwegian harbor in Narvik.

 Riksgränsen is a small Swedish resort town 200 km (about 125 miles) north of the Arctic Circle near the border with Norway. until early 80´s the only communication by land was via the railway that transports Iron for the Swedish town of Kiruna to the Norwegian harbor in Narvik. It opens in mid-February to skiers, when there is more daylight to ski by.  Many of the refugees at Riksgränsen had never seen snow before so the resort bought sleds to help the guests enjoy their time there.

The ski season begins in mid-February in Swedish Lapland, at the northern tip of the country. But there’s a resort called Riksgränsen not far from the border with Norway that’s open now, and it’s crowded.

Its guests, though, are not skiers enjoying the slopes—they’re refugees fleeing conflict. To be precise, they’re 600 refugees from countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. One hundred of them are children. And they’re now adjusting to life above the Arctic Circle.

“The hotel was dark and closed, but more or less clean,” says Sven Kuldkepp, CEO of Riksgränsen. “We had two days to prepare. It went perfectly, but it was hectic.”

Because of the lack of sunlight during the day, the Muslim refugees at the resort have had to figure out another system for their daily prayers, which are usually based on the sun’s position in the sky … the sun never rises above the horizon in January …

A typical day in Riksgränsen … includes eating the meals provided by the resort, reading, listening to music, playing instruments or cards, and spending a lot of time on social media connecting with friends and family. There are also some organized activities: ski lessons, Swedish and English language courses, billiards, boxing training … despite the distractions, the cold weather, dark days, and cultural differences between asylum-seekers can be trying. “You can feel the tension among the people. They are just depressed … Everyone is depressed.  We are completely secluded” …  read more/see more pics —>  http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/

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