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NON-NORWEGIAN RESIDENTS IN SVALBARD CAN’T TRAVEL TO MAINLAND: Norway’s ‘reopening’ on June 1 doesn’t include hundreds of locals; mayor calls rule ‘completely unreasonable’

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It turns out Norway’s “reopening” on June 1 doesn’t apply to all permanent residents, as hundreds in Svalbard will be unable to travel the mainland for non-urgent purposes because they’re not Norwegian citizens.

Concerns by Longyearbyen residents hoping to vacation on the mainland this summer were voiced to local officials, media and Facebook pages after being told the Norwegian government’s lifting of coronavirus-related restrictions for domestic travel didn’t apply to them. Such residents account for about 35 percent of Svalbard’s population.

“(I was) planning as a permanent resident who is non EU/EEA citizen to go to Norway for a few weeks this summer assuming the regulations stay the same,” wrote Sara Mollie, a U.S. citizen who is a staff engineer at The University Centre in Svalbard, in a post on a community Facebook page Wednesday that received more than 50 responses within a few hours. “I have emailed (the governor) and they said it wasn’t allowed and I would have to take contact with the Ministry of Justice and Public Security.”

An inquiry to the governor’s office was referred to The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration, which stated “third-country nationals (from Svalbard) cannot holiday in Norway as the rules are now.” The Norwegian government’s revised regulations issued last week state non-Norwegian residents in Svalbard can travel to Norway to get to their home countries, but not disembark on the mainland.

The regulations allowed non-Norwegian residents on the mainland to travel to Svalbard for work/residency, but must be quarantined on the mainland for 10 days if they are entering the country from abroad.

Longyearbyen Mayor Arild Olsen told Svalbardposten on Wednesday he became aware of the discrepancy a few days ago, has been in touch with the governor and immigration officials, and “it is obvious that such a restriction is completely unreasonable.” Norway’s government has already stated it will consider relaxing some restrictions still in place on June 15, including opening the border to people from Nordic countries, and Olsen is hoping modifications for Svalbard residents will be considered before or by that date.

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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