New figures from the EU’s statistics bureau Eurostat show that 99 percent of all men from Afghanistan who seek asylum in Norway are rejected. Norwegian officials interpret asylum rules much differently than officials in other European countries such as Italy, reports newspaper Aftenposten.
“If I had known this, I wouldn’t have come to Norway,” one man from Afghanistan told Aftenposten. “I had been told Norway was a good country, but this is stressful.” Now he fears no other European country will offer him asylum, since he’s been rejected in Norway.
Elizabeth Collett, director of the Migration Policy Institute, told Aftenposten that European countries interpret asylum regulations in many different ways. “Whether migrants from Afghanistan can demand asylum is among issues European countries disagree on the most,” she said.
Over the past year, Norway has rejected asylum applications from 69 percent of all Afghans seeking protection. The average for all of Europe was 43 percent.
Men aged 18 to 34 make up the largest single group of Afghans seeking asylum. Norway has rejected 92 percent of their applications every year since 2010, with fully 99 percent of those applying last year turned away. Numbers from Eurostat showed that Norway handled a total of 895 asylum applications through the last half of 2015 and first half of this year.
Germany, by comparison, rejected 57 percent of Afghan men in the same age group, while Italy rejected only 3 percent. EU countries as a whole rejected 47 percent. Norway has also rejected the largest number of adult female asylum seekers from Afghanistan, 86 percent during the last year, according to Eurostat.
Many of the men appeal, claiming they fled Afghanistan because they were being pressured into joining the Taliban. They fear they’ll be killed if they’re forced to return.
Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug of the conservative Progress Party, which has long called for restrictive immigration policy, said she was satisfied with the high rates of rejection. She claimed asylum is meant for those with a real need for protection, which many Afghan men have a hard time proving in Norway.
If asylum seekers can move to a more secure area of their own home country, for example, they’re being directed to go there instead of to Norway. Listhaug stressed, however, that asylum decisions are made by immigration agency UDI and not by her ministry. UDI, she said, has made a new evaluation of Afghanistan and believes no region of the country is still so unsafe that rejected asylum seekers can’t be sent back.