During the year many countries in the EU and Southeast Europe experienced an unprecedented wave of migration from the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, consisting of a mix of asylum seekers/potential refugees, economic migrants, and trafficking victims, among others. For simplicity, this report will refer to these populations as “migrants and asylum seekers” if more specific information is not available.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.
By the end of October, 21,946 persons applied for asylum. During the year authorities returned to their country of origin 1,092 individuals whose asylum applications were rejected. An agreement among six of the eight parties in parliament in June provided for the acceptance of 8,000 Syrian refugees screened by UNHCR outside the country from 2015 through 2017.
The law permits detention of aliens to establish their identity or to effect their removal from the country if authorities deem it likely the persons would evade an order to leave.
While the government relaxed its laws regarding long-staying children in December 2014, NGOs, such as the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), criticized it for returning minors to the country of their parents’ origin if the parents were not granted asylum. NOAS believed the policy was discriminatory, lacked due process, and did not fully take into account the interests of the child, noting that there was no consistent policy on handling children’s deportation cases and that the appeals board did not permit children to be present during their appeal hearings.
Safe Country of Origin/Transit: The country is party to the EU’s Dublin III regulation, which allows the government to return refugees and asylum seekers to the first country they entered that is also a party to the regulation. As of October the government transferred 870 persons to other European countries under the regulation. Authorities did not return asylum seekers to Greece.
Refoulement: According to the Police Immigration Unit, as of September the government deported 5,300 persons who did not qualify for asylum or temporary protection, or 5 percent more than in the same period in 2014. Authorities deported failed asylum seekers to Russia, Nigeria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and other countries. A number of NGOs criticized the government for returning some asylum seekers to areas in their home country different from where they originated, as frequently occurred for returnees to Afghanistan. Amnesty International-Norway continued to criticize the government for returning failed asylum seekers to south and central Somalia, where it asserted there was a risk they would be targeted, persecuted, and subjected to human rights violations and abuses.
Employment: Asylum seekers may not work while their cases are under evaluation unless their identity can be documented through a valid travel document or a national identification card.
Access to Basic Services: Asylum seekers residing in an asylum reception center could not be absent from the center for more than three days without potentially losing their place at the center and all concomitant financial support from the government. Centers were predominantly located in remote areas of the country, and long travel times and a lack of money to pay for public transport effectively limited asylum seekers’ ability to move freely.
Durable Solutions: The government’s Directorate of Immigration (UDI) had several programs to settle refugees permanently in the country. According to the UDI, as of September the country had accepted 1,376 refugees for resettlement. Through the International Organization for Migration, the government assisted the return of refugees to their country of origin through voluntary programs that offered financial and logistical support for repatriation.
Temporary Protection: Through the end of October, the government provided temporary protection to 614 individuals who may not qualify as refugees.