Many Pakistani asylum seekers sent back as applications were ‘without merit’: Norway

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Norwegian Ambassador to Islamabad Tore Nedrebo has said over 400 Pakistani citizens had applied for asylum in Norway, with many of them being sent back as their applications were ‘without merit’.

“Most of them have crossed the Norwegian-Russian border in the High North during the last month,” the ambassador said in a statement issued by the Norwegian embassy.

“Many more will soon be sent back to their home country or to Russia, as the Norwegian government has now introduced stricter rules for asylum seekers.”

Norwegian authorities consider most of those currently crossing the border are not fleeing from civil war or persecution. Earlier this autumn, the majority were from Syria. Now over a half are from countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. A large proportion of them are single young men.

“Few are entitled to protection and they are putting an unnecessary burden on the Norwegian system”, said the ambassador.

Nedrebo pointed out that to be eligible for asylum under the international Refugee Convention, a person must be in real need of protection.

He said people whose applications were denied must return to their home country or country of habitual residence, adding those who do not leave voluntarily would be returned by force and asylum applications that appear likely to be denied will be given priority and fast-tracked.

“Applications from Pakistani nationals generally falls into this category,” added ambassador Nedrebo.

Like in other European countries, the number of asylum seekers arriving in Norway has recently increased sharply. It is estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 asylum seekers will come to Norway in 2015.

“The new rush is particularly challenging at the Norwegian-Russian border crossing station at Storskog, where winter has now set in,” said the statement.

Legislative amendments adopted by Oslo last week enable a speedy return of asylum seekers, without real need of protection to their home country, or to their country of habitual residence, which may be Russia.

The new legislation also has provisions making it possible to arrest and remand in custody foreign nationals whose asylum applications will most likely not be processed, or to impose on them a duty to report to the authorities and to stay in a specific place.

Meanwhile, benefits for asylum seekers have been reduced and rules for family immigration are tightened. The new rules also increase the discretion of Norwegian immigration authorities not to process an asylum application if the applicant has already resided in a safe third country.

“Norway considers Russia to be a safe country,” said the Norwegian ambassador.