Last Updated: Thursday, 24 July 2014, 13:56 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Norway

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Norway , 1 June 2000, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8cf0.html [accessed 24 July 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.

Norway

At the end of 1999, Norway hosted about 9,500 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 181 persons granted asylum, 2,609 issued permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, about 4,570 Yugoslavs from Kosovo granted temporary protection, about 150 rejected Yugoslav asylum seekers still in need of protection, 1,480 refugees who resettled in Norway during the year, and approximately 1,700 asylum seekers with pending claims.

In 1999, some 10,160 persons submitted asylum applications in Norway, 21 percent more than the 8,374 individuals who applied in 1998. An increase in the number of Iraqi asylum seekers accounted for much of the overall rise in asylum applications; 4,073 Iraqis applied in 1999 compared to the 1,296 Iraqi applicants in 1998. Significant numbers of asylum seekers also arrived from Somalia (1,340), Yugoslavia (1,152), Iran (350), and the Russian Federation (318).

In 1999, the Directorate for Immigration (UDI) issued 5,314 first-instance decisions. The UDI granted refugee status to 181 persons, including 84 from Bosnia and 27 from Iran.

The UDI also granted 2,609 residence permits on humanitarian grounds, 43 percent of all cases decided in 1999. 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 residence.

The UDI rejected 3,330 asylum applicants during the year, accounting for 54 percent of all decisions.

During 1999, Norway resettled 1,480 "quota" refugees, including persons from Iran (422), Afghanistan (304), and Iraq (180).

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 the asylum applications to the UDI, which issues decisions based solely on the police report.

After submitting their applications, asylum seekers are transferred to a reception center. Asylum seekers may also stay 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 June 1999, the Department of Justice began granting asylum seekers work permits valid for the duration of the normal asylum procedure.

In addition to granting Convention refugee status, the UDI may also 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 reasons. The government can also extend temporary protection to groups when dealing with situations of mass refugee flight.

On average, the UDI requires six months to issue decisions. Because of the increase in asylum applications, some 1,700 asylum seekers were awaiting a first interview with the police by December. Asylum seekers who have waited for more than 15 months for a decision are automatically granted residence permits, provided that the delay is not the fault of the asylum seeker.

Following criticism about Norway's low refugee approval rate, the authorities issued new guidelines for asylum officers at UDI in January 1998, permitting them to recognize nonstate and gender-based persecution as grounds for granting asylum. The guidelines also instructed asylum officers to give asylum seekers the benefit of the doubt when deciding cases. Despite the guidelines, the asylum approval rate remained at three percent in 1999.

Rejected applicants have three weeks after notification to appeal a negative decision with the Ministry of Justice. Appeals of manifestly unfounded denials do not suspend deportation orders.

Local municipalities are responsible for providing housing and integration services, such as language and vocational training to recognized refugees. Recognized refugees and humanitarian residence permit holders must apply for work permits but are eligible for the same health care and social benefits as Norwegian citizens.

Restrictive Measures

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

Following a dramatic increase in the number of Slovak Roma seeking asylum in Norway, the authorities imposed a visa requirement for Slovak citizens in July 1999. Although it briefly lifted the visa requirement, the Norwegian government reimposed it in December. Finland and Denmark also imposed visa requirements for Slovak citizens following similar influxes of Slovak Roma.

Norway, along with Iceland, is an associate member of the Schengen Convention (see chart).

Former Yugoslavs and Yugoslavs

Following a large influx of Bosnians in the early 1990s, Norway amended its Aliens Act to allow the granting of temporary protection to specific refugee groups in situations of mass flight. In April, the government used this law for the first time, granting temporary protection to refugees from Kosovo, including ethnic Albanians and Serbs.

In addition to accepting 6,072 Kosovo Albanians airlifted from Macedonia under the humanitarian evacuation program (HEP), Norway also granted temporary protection to approximately 2,000 Yugoslav citizens who arrived spontaneously. The number of actual HEP arrivals slightly exceeded Norway's original quota of 6,000. Temporary protection recipients received one-year residence permits and permission to work. Norway housed the Yugoslavs in reception centers throughout the country and gave them small monthly allowances and medical care.

In contrast to most European countries, Norway relaxed visa requirements during the crisis for Yugoslav citizens with family members in Norway. Yugoslavs arriving on family reunification visas were permitted to apply for residence permits once in Norway. For the first time, the Norwegian authorities allowed Yugoslavs in Norway to apply for family reunification. (Previously, family members abroad had to apply for reunification visas at a Norwegian consulate.)

Following the arrival of NATO troops in Kosovo, the Norwegian government announced that it would not renew temporary residence permits granted to Yugoslavs. The government said that Yugoslavs would be allowed to apply for asylum under the normal procedure when the temporary protection expires.

In 1999, the UDI provided financial and logistical assistance to Kosovo Albanians wishing to repatriate. They had the option to return to Norway if their residence permits were still valid, but had to repay the repatriation grant of 15,000 Norwegian Crowns ($1,800). Those opting to return to Norway would have to apply for asylum under the normal procedure to be able to stay beyond the expiration of their temporary protection status. By November, 3,429 persons had returned to Kosovo.

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