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U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Norway

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Norway , 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8c830.html [accessed 20 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 1998, Norway hosted 2,493 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 95 persons granted asylum, 1,564 issued permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, and 834 refugees who resettled in Norway during the year.

Some 8,374 persons submitted asylum applications in 1998, a three fold increase over the 2,27 in 1997. The increase stems primarily from an influx of Kosovar Albanians and Croatian Serbs from Eastern Slavonia. The largest numbers of asylum seekers arrived from Croatia (2,415), Yugoslavia (1,623), Iraq (1,296), and Somalia (938).

In 1998, the Directorate for Immigration (UDI) issued 3,919 first instance decisions. The UDI conferred refugee status to 95 persons; 33 were from Iraq, and 29 from Bosnia-Hercegovina.

The UDI also granted 1,564 residence permits on humanitarian grounds, 40 percent of all cases decided in 1998. Residence permits are valid for one year and may be renewed annually. The UDI grants permanent residence status to an applicant after three years of temporary permits.

The UDI rejected 2,260 asylum applications in the first instance, accounting for 58 percent of all decisions. Upon appeal, the Ministry of Justice granted 13 persons asylum and issued 249 persons residence permits on humanitarian grounds.

During 1998, Norway resettled 834 "quota" refugees, including persons from Iran (388) and Iraq (216). Norwegian authorities increased the 1999 refugee quota to 1,500 places, of which 300 are reserved for Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan.

Asylum Procedure

Norway's asylum procedure is governed by the Aliens Law of 1988 and the Aliens Decree of 1990. Police conduct the initial interviews of asylum seekers, who receive limited legal assistance in filing their applications. The police forward asylum applications to the UDI, which issues first instance decisions based solely on the police report.

After submitting their applications, asylum seekers are transferred to a reception center. Asylum seekers may also live with relatives or friends while awaiting a decision. The Norwegian government provides a limited monthly allowance to asylum seekers and grants them access to the national medical system.

In addition to refugee status, UDI may grant an applicant Convention refugee status, or grant permission to stay on humanitarian grounds to persons who do not meet the Convention definition but are nevertheless in a "refugee-like" situation, including for health concerns. On average, the UDI requires six months to issue first- instance decisions. In January 1998, the Norwegian authorities began to recognize nonstate agents of persecution in asylum applications.

Applicants may appeal negative decisions to the Ministry of Justice within three weeks of notification. Appeals on cases deemed manifestly unfounded do not suspend expulsion orders.

The local municipalities are responsible for providing housing and integration activities to recognized refugees. At the end of 1998, nearly 700 recognized refugees awaited placement in a municipality, indicating a general reluctance on the part of local governments to accept refugees. Recognized refugees and recipients of humanitarian residence permits must apply for work permits but have the same access to health care and social benefits as Norwegian citizens.

Restrictive Measures

Asylum seekers are usually deemed inadmissible to the asylum procedure if they have travelled through a "safe third country" that could have offered them protection. While Norway does not use official lists to determine safe third countries, in practice, the Norwegian authorities consider Denmark, Sweden and Germany to be safe third countries.

Following a dramatic increase in the number of Croatian Serbs seeking asylum in Norway, the authorities in both Norway and Denmark imposed a visa requirement for Croatian citizens in June 1998.

Norway also placed a visa requirement on Colombian nationals, following an increase in the number of asylum applicants from Colombia. Most asylum seekers arrived after Sweden enacted similar visa restrictions in September 1998.

Norway, along with Iceland, has reached a compromise with the European Union in order to implement the Schengen Convention. The convention will be integrated into EU policy in the Amsterdam Treaty, scheduled to take effect in May 1999.

Former Yugoslavs and Yugoslavs

The large influx of Croatian Serb asylum seekers proved to be the most significant asylum issue in Norway during 1998. Protesting the rejection of their asylum claims, nearly 300 Croatian Serbs began a hunger strike in November. Representatives of the striking asylum seekers eventually met with the Acting Prime Minister and the State Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, and the hunger strike was ended. Nonetheless, the majority of hunger striker's had not received a change in status by year's end.

The Directorate of Immigration suspended examination of asylum seekers from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the majority of whom are Kosovo Albanians, in March 1998. The authorities resumed examining Yugoslav cases in October and awarded positive decisions to 14 applicants.

Some 13,895 Bosnians remained in Norway at the end of 1998. In December, the Norwegian government ended temporary protection for Bosnians. While the Norwegian authorities will not forcibly repatriate any Bosnians granted permission to stay prior to December, Bosnians filing asylum applications after this date will be evaluated on an individual basis.

Norway ended its assisted repatriation program for Bosnians at the end of 1998, in conjunction with the termination of temporary protection for this group.

Of the nearly 1,750 Bosnians refugees who have repatriated since 1994, nearly 200 persons have since returned to Norway, utilizing a two year return clause in their original residence permits. Most of the returning Bosnians cited reintegration difficulties in Bosnia as their reason for returning to Norway.

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