Asylum-seeker numbers fall by half

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Norway’s immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) reported on Monday that the numbers of asylum seekers entering Norway fell by half last week, to 968. That’s down from 2,108 the week before, and state politicians were cautiously optimistic that the tide may be turning.

“This is very good news that the asylum numbers are going down,” Trond Helleland, who leads the ruling Conservatives’ delegation in Parliament, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Then we can have better control over the situation and be in better shape to return those who don’t meet the demand for protection.”

The decline in the numbers of asylum seekers arriving in Norway started going down last week, but police and immigration officials claimed it was too early to see any trend. Now UDI director Frode Forfang says the decline is probably a result of the intensified border control that went into effect last week, following government efforts to spread the word that migrants who don’t meet the demands for asylum would be summarily deported.

Forfang said that fewer asylum seekers are arriving over Norway’s border to Russia in the far north and fewer are arriving via Sweden.

Asylum seekers arriving from Syria, most of whom meet asylum requirements, declined from to 270 last week, from 699 the week before. The number of people from Afghanistan fell to 256 from 606 while only 106 people from Iraq and 102 from Iran applied for asylum.

A total of 31,270 refugees are now registered at asylum centers around Norway, up only slightly from the 31,159 registered last week at this time.

“The news that Norway has tightened its immigration policy is something that spreads quickly in migrant circles and among the smugglers,” Helleland told NRK. “Our message to them who have nothing to do here is short and to the point: ‘Don’t come here.'”

He claimed that in order to provide the help needed to those who do need protection, “we must have strict immigration policies that are under control.” Helleland said it was still important for the government to follow the situation carefully, and tighten border controls further if the numbers rise again.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund