Afghan interpreters granted asylum

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The Norwegian justice ministry has granted asylum to 21 Afghan interpreters who worked for Norwegian forces during the NATO-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban forces reportedly had threatened to execute them.

“After a comprehensive evaluation, the ministry has decided that 21 of the applicants for asylum fulfill the requirements as refugees,” Pål Lønseth, state secretary in the justice ministry for the Labour Party, wrote in a press release Thursday afternoon.

Several Norwegian military officers have supported the Afghans’ asylum requests, telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that leaving them behind in Afghanistan would be akin to leaving their colleagues on the battlefield. Newspaper VG reported that several of the interpreters had been threatened with either beheading or hanging by the Taliban.

A total of 106 Afghans who worked for the Norwegian troops applied for asylum in Norway as the defense ministry was pulling out the troops. Some worked on construction jobs or in other roles as service personnel, and Lønseth claimed that not all of them could prove a need for protection. He said Norway has “a special responsibility ” for those who have worked as interpreters for Norwegian forces in Afghanistan.

Protests are expected on behalf of those who were not granted asylum and who may feel abandoned by the Norwegians as troops are withdrawn. Refugee advocates argued that they face danger without the Norwegians there to protect them, and some reportedly are already living in hiding.

Lønseth said Norwegian staff at Norway’s embassy in Kabul and at the country’s immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) needed to evaluate both the asylum seekers’ need for protection and their security situation in Afghanistan.

“We are extremely concerned that those who will come to Norway won’t have a security risk here either,” Lønseth said. “This has demanded a lot of work. We must be assured of the identities of those who come.”

He stated that the 21 persons granted asylum will be resettled in Norwegian municipalities along with their closest family members after all have undergone ID control. The Norwegian government will arrange their travel and fund their relocation. Since the process involves the ID checks, paperwork and finding municipalities for their resettlement, Lønseth said he couldn’t predict when they would arrive in Norway.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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