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Saturday, May 22, 1999 Published at 22:14 GMT 23:14 UK

World: Europe

Norway tackles Arctic vice

Norwegian authorities are struggling to control the rise in cross-border sex tourism in the northern provinces of Finnmark and Troms inside the Arctic circle.

Tony Samstag on the social effects of the Russian influx
Increasing numbers of Russian prostitutes travelling across the border between Norway and Russia was one of the earliest consequences of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russian women regularly travel across the border by the busload, scattering through the sparsely-populated northern regions.

Legal loophole

Lured by the prospect of earning Norwegian kröne, the Russian prostitutes take advantage of the fact that the sex trade is legal in Norway

[ image: Prostitutes come in from Russia by the busload]
Prostitutes come in from Russia by the busload
Laws against engaging in prostitution in public places are rarely enforced.

Since the relaxation of Soviet-era border controls, Norwegians have also crossed the frontier in search of sex - mainly to the city of Murmansk, where sexual favours can be bought for as little as a bottle of vodka.

The government in Oslo, hundreds of kilometres south of the affected provinces, is deeply concerned about the spiralling trade, and its disruptive effects on Norwegian society.

The damage has been most serious in small, isolated communities where families have broken up, drunkenness and violence have increased, and organised crime has moved in.

[ image: In Murmansk, sexual favours cost as little as a bottle of vodka]
In Murmansk, sexual favours cost as little as a bottle of vodka
The public health department of the Ministry for Social Affairs in Oslo is co-operating with an international campaign run by the European Institute for HIV Prevention in Prostitution.

The group says most of the Russian prostitutes work in massage-parlours, an ever more familiar sight in Norway's large cities, and in escort work

The government itself is considering stricter border controls and the deportation of convicted prostitutes from the Russian Federation.

In addition, a public relations firm has been hired by the provincial authorities to launch a campaign promoting safe sex and family values.

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