United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1998 - Norway, 1 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6a8bd1c.html [accessed 5 March 2015]
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At the end of 1997, there were more than 3,100 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection in Norway. These included: applicants in about 700 pending asylum cases; 983 persons who received temporary protection based on their refugee claims, including 433 Bosnians; 83 persons granted asylum; and 1,343 refugees resettled in Norway during the year. During the year, 2,271 persons filed asylum applications in Norway, a 27 percent increase from the 1,778 during 1996. The largest groups of asylum seekers during 1997 were from Somalia (552), Yugoslavia (343), Iraq (272), Sri Lanka (196), and Iran (138). Applicants from these five countries comprised more than two-thirds of those who sought asylum in 1997. Some 12,500 Bosnians with residence or work permits remained in Norway at year's end. During 1997, the Directorate for Immigration (UDI) issued first instance decisions on 1,530 applications representing 2,164 persons. The UDI conferred refugee status in 78 cases (representing 83 persons), five percent of all cases decided. Those granted asylum included 66 persons from Bosnia and Hercegovina, 11 from Iran, and two from Iraq. The UDI also granted temporary residence permits on humanitarian grounds in 421 cases (representing 550 persons), some 27.5 percent of all cases decided. In 1997, the majority of people granted temporary residence in Norway were from three countries: Somalia (30 percent), Iraq (26 percent), and Sri Lanka (16 percent). Residence permits are valid for one year and are renewable annually. After three years of temporary permits, the UDI may grant the applicant permanent residence status. The UDI rejected outright 1,063 applications (representing 1,531 persons), 69.5 percent of all cases decided, similar to the rejection rate in 1996, when 72.2 percent of all cases decided were refused permission to remain. About 700 asylum cases remained undecided in the first instance at the end of 1997. During 1997, the Ministry of Justice, the appeal authority in Norway, issued 1,175 decisions. The ministry granted asylum to four appellants from Burma and granted residence permits on humanitarian grounds in 133 cases. The ministry rejected appeals in 1,038 cases. Historically, Norway annually resettles about 1,000 "quota" refugees identified by UNHCR. During 1997, Norway admitted 1,343 persons under the refugee quota, including 624 persons from Iraq, 564 from Iran, and 62 from Bosnia and Hercegovina. Asylum Procedure Norway's asylum procedure is governed by the Aliens Law of 1988 and the Aliens Decree of 1990. Police conduct initial interviews of asylum seekers, who receive limited legal assistance in completing their applications. The police forward the asylum claim to the UDI, which issues first-instance decisions based solely on the police report. The UDI takes an average of six months to process asylum cases. Applicants may appeal negative decisions to the Ministry of Justice within three weeks of notification. However, for applications deemed manifestly unfounded, appeals do not suspend expulsion. Generally, asylum seekers must live in state-run reception centers, where they receive limited 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. Former Yugoslavs During 1997, Norway granted temporary protection to 433 Bosnians, bringing the number of Bosnians with some form of protection in Norway at the end of 1997 to about 12,500. Many of those 12,500 were among some 4,500 asylum cases that UDI had suspended, based on a 1995 law concerning Bosnian asylum applicants. In November 1996, the government announced that all Bosnians who had been granted temporary protection by that date would be permitted to remain in Norway. After three years of temporary protection, Bosnians can choose to have their pending asylum applications decided. During 1997, 90 Bosnians with residence permits had decided to do so. Some 480 others repatriated under a Norwegian program allowing Bosnians to repatriate and, if they decide to return to Norway within two years, keep their original residence permits.