The remote archipelago of Svalbard | DW Documentary

The archipelago Svalbard in the Arctic is a place anyone can call home. A zone with no visa requirements, people from more than 50 countries live and work here. But life in the Arctic is demanding, and there are no social services to rely on.

Darkness reigns in Svalbard during the long winter months. But that doesn’t deter people from moving to the visa-free archipelago. For some, it’s a well-paid job that brings them to this remote Arctic location. Others are drawn by the breathtaking landscape. Efren Regato from the Philippines works as a cleaner in Svalbard. He’s had to adjust to frigid temperatures in Europe’s far north, while his sons complain that life in the capital of Longyearbyen is pretty monotonous. But while citizens of any country are welcome to settle in Svalbard, there are no social services to rely on if they fall on hard times. Those who can’t cover their living expenses must leave.

Élise Thil from Belgium and her French husband Loup Supéry almost had to give up on their dream of a new start in the Arctic. The coronavirus pandemic pushed them to the limit. For months on end, they couldn’t earn money as tour guides, because no tourists were coming. Now the tourists are finally back, and with them the hope of better times. German tour operator Christian Bruttel is also dependent on tourists. He used to work as a teacher in southern Germany – until he discovered his fascination for the Arctic. We join him as he prepares for his next excursion. His guests have booked a camping trip in the snow and ice, far removed from civilization. As they embark on their adventure, the group will need to be armed – because the residents share the archipelago with hundreds of polar bears.

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