Refugee returns blocked in the Arctic

Bookmark and Share

No more asylum seekers who were turned down by Norway will be sent over the border to Russia at Storskog. After meetings in Moscow this week between Norwegian and Russian authorities, it was agreed that only rejected refugees with legal residence permission in Russia will be accepted in return.

Thor Arne Aass,  leader of the Norwegian delegation at the meetings, said the Russians had rid themselves of “some practical problems” and were willing to take back people who’d fled to Norway even though they had permanent residence permits in Russia.

Aass himself conceded that only amounts to between 200 and 300 people, far less than the 5,000 or so that Norway’s conservative government coalition wants to send back to Russia. Most of them arrived in Norway last fall via the so-called “Arctic Route” from Moscow and Murmansk.

Russia’s “practical problems” included a lack of immigration officials at the far northern border to Norway at Storskog. That’s why the Russians now want the  roughly 250 people cleared for return to be sent by air, and preferably to Moscow.

Russia already has accepted around 200 asylum seekers returned by Norway, so it appears that around 500 in total will ultimately be returned. It looks likely that Norway will need to accept and settle all the others who made it to Norway via the Arctic route as part of what some analysts have called a “power play” on the part of Russian officials.

Government officials led by Sylvi Listhaug, Norway’s new and aggressive minister for asylum and immigration issues, remain keen to return as many other asylum seekers as possible, whom they deem as not in need of protection in Norway. Listhaug is now favouring returns of would-be refugees in Norway back to countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Pakistan and even Syria in some cases.

newsinenglish.no staff