“Establishing control of arrivals in Svalbard is also necessary”, says the Norwegian Minister of Justice and Preparedness. According to Svalbard Airport, however, there are no facilities available for conducting control of neither persons nor goods.
The new Norwegian Border Act entered into force last Sunday. Based on this law, the Norwegian government has established a new regulation on control of persons in Svalbard that enters into force on the coming Friday, 6 May.
This is one of the government’s measures to strengthen security in the North following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The regulation provides the Svalbard Governor with the opportunity to conduct ID control of persons arriving to or leaving Svalbard by plane and boat.
In an early phase, the control of persons will be sporadic and in particularly aimed at charter planes arriving directly to Svalbard from abroad, according to the MoD.
“Establishing control of arrivals in Svalbard is also necessary, so that we are better equipped to prevent a.o. cross-border crime, maintain public order and other national interests, and secure our meeting our international obligations”, says Minister of Justice and Preparedness Emilie Mehl (Center Party) in a departmental press release last Friday.
Along with the government’s proposal about introducing control of goods to and from Svalbard this will strengthen Norwegian authorities’ capability to control the archipelago
“Along with the government’s proposal about introducing control of goods to and from Svalbard this will strengthen Norwegian authorities’ capability to control the archipelago”, Mehl also says.
The minister refers to the government’s also wanting to introduce customs control in Longyearbyen in May, in order to avoid Svalbard’s acting as a “loophole” for in- and outwards moving of sanctioned goods to and from Russia.
The government’s proposal about the Customs Act now also being applicable to the archipelago was adopted by the Norwegian parliament Stortinget in April.
Last Friday was the hearing deadline for the proposal on goods control in Svalbard.
The airport is already too small to handle the current passenger flow
Svalbard Airport reports lack of space
In its hearing note to the Ministry of Finance, Svalbard Airport does not bring any remarks to the regulation itself, however, it reports that as per today, the airport does not have facilities available for conducting control of neither persons nor goods.
“The airport is already to small to manage the current flow of passengers”, the airport writes. It is owned and operated by the state-owned company Avinor AS.
The current terminal was built in 2007.
Svalbard Airport further refers to a project conducted in collaboration with the Customs Office and the Svalbard Governor a few years back regarding mapping the extent to which the airport must be expanded in order for control of persons and goods to be conducted there.
Based on this, a need for expanding the airport with some 2,300 additional square meters was indicted, which had a cost estimate of NOK 135 to 155 million, according to the airport. It also writes that external funding is required to conduct this expansion.
Funding for the Svalbard Governor and the Customs Office
In relation to the new Svalbard Border Act, the government proposed on 1 April to increase the Svalbard Governor’s allocation with NOK 8 million to introduce control of persons.
The money is to be spent on equipment and computer systems, as well as to creating new positions at the Governor’s office.
The government also proposed allocating an additional NOK 12 million to the Customs Office in order to cover its expenses related to establishing control of goods in Svalbard.
These means are a.o. to cover salaries for service officers in Svalbard, facilities/rent, transport expenses, required temporary system adjustments, and control equipment.
These additional funds are part of the government’s overall budget proposal about economic measures following from the war in Ukraine. The proposal is to be processed by Stortinget on Tuesday this week.
On 4 April, Customs Director Øystein Børmer said to Norwegian broadcaster NRK that the Customs Office is well underway with its preparations for establishing control activities in Svalbard. It aims to be able to conduct customs control in Svalbard from 1 May this year.
This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.