United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1997 - Norway, 1 January 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8b920.html [accessed 19 June 2013]
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During 1996, 1,778 persons filed applications for asylum in Norway, a more than 21 percent increase from 1995. The largest groups of asylum seekers during 1996 were from Sri Lanka (413), Poland (209), Somalia (180), Iran (120), and Iraq (113). Applicants from these five countries accounted for more than half of all persons who sought asylum during the year. About 11,000 Bosnians with temporary protection remained in Norway at year's end. During 1996, the Directorate for Immigration (UDI) issued first-instance decisions on 1,464 applications representing 2,026 persons. UDI conferred refugee status in only 6 cases (all representing individual applicants), just 0.4 percent of all cases decided. Those granted asylum included two persons from Turkey, two from Kenya, and one each from Iraq and Iran. UDI also granted residence permits on humanitarian grounds in 401 cases (representing 610 persons), some 27.4 percent of all cases decided. UDI rejected outright 1,057 applications (representing 1,410 persons), 72.2 percent of all cases decided, a significant increase in the rejection rate from 1995, when 61.5 percent of all cases decided were refused permission to remain. About 8,000 asylum cases remained undecided in the first instance at the end of 1996. During 1996, the Ministry of Justice, the appeal authority in Norway, issued 1,168 decisions. As during 1995, the ministry did not grant asylum to any appellant during 1996. However, the ministry did grant residence permits on humanitarian grounds in 255 cases. The ministry rejected appeals in 913 cases. Historically, Norway annually resettles about 1,000 "quota" refugees identified by UNHCR. During 1996, Norway admitted 788 persons under the refugee quota, including 288 persons from Iraq, 273 from Iran, and 194 from Bosnia and Hercegovina. The remainder of the 1996 quota was to be carried over into 1997. Asylum Procedure The asylum procedure in Norway is governed by the Aliens Law of 1988 and the Aliens Decree of 1990. Police conduct initial interviews of asylum seekers, who are offered limited legal assistance with their applications. The Directorate for Immigration issues first-instance decisions. Negative decisions may be appealed to the Ministry of Justice. However, for applications deemed manifestly unfounded, appeals do not suspend expulsion. Generally, asylum seekers are required to live in state-run reception centers, where they receive a small amount of financial assistance to cover personal expenses. Asylum seekers are not entitled to work permits. In December 1996, Norway signed a Cooperation Agreement with the European Union (EU) states that are party to the Schengen Agreement. The signing paves the way for Norway, which is not an EU member, to become an associate member of the Schengen group, perhaps by the year 2000. The Schengen Agreement outlines responsibilities for adjudicating asylum claims for applicants who arrive in the countries covered by the agreement and provides for the removal of border controls between member states, among other provisions. Former Yugoslavs During 1996, Norway granted temporary protection to 588 Bosnians, bringing the number of Bosnians with temporary protection in Norway at the end of 1996 to about 11,000, according to the government. The asylum applications of many of the 11,000 were among some 4,500 asylum cases that UDI had suspended, based on a 1995 law concerning Bosnian asylum applicants. During 1996, 73 Bosnians applied for asylum in Norway. In practice, the government has not acted on asylum applications submitted by Bosnians. In 1995, parliament enacted a law that formally suspended individual consideration of Bosnian applications for three years, instead authorizing work or residence permits. Following the three-year waiting period, temporary protection may be granted for one additional year. After four years of legal residence, Bosnians may apply for a permanent residence permit. During 1996, the government issued such permits to 39 Bosnians. On November 7, 1996, the government announced that all Bosnians who had been granted temporary protection by that date would be permitted to remain in Norway. The government reported that it continued to have difficulty in repatriating rejected asylum seekers from Serbia, most of whom are ethnic Albanians from the formerly autonomous province of Kosovo. The difficulty was apparently due to the Yugoslav authorities' refusal to issue travel documents.