At least seven persons with ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan have been granted asylum in Norway during the past year, reports newspaper Aftenposten . Government officials were on national radio newscasts all day trying to explain how this could happen, and counter criticism from both opposition and fellow politicians in their own parties.
Libe Rieber-Mohn, the state secretary in charge of immigration issues, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that none of those granted asylum had important positions within the Taliban. She denied that Norway could be seen as a safe haven for radical Islamists.
A soldier who served in Afghanistan nonetheless told Aftenposten it was “a bizarre situation” that Norway would grant refugee status to people tied to a group that Norway is fighting.
“It’s quite startling for Norwegian soldiers that those who are trying to kill us get residence permission in Norway,” said Afghanistan veteran Lars Henrik Torgersen. He thinks a majority of his colleagues view the situation as “very negative.”
Politicians from both government and opposition parties were negative as well. They issued a rare summons to Reiber-Mohn’s boss, cabinet minister Dag Terje Andersen, to appear within the hour before Parliament and answer questions. He was clearly uncomfortable and said later he understands why people are upset.Norway currently has around 500 soldiers serving with allied forces in Afghanistan. A Norwegian officer was killed in a roadside bombing while on duty there earlier this spring.
One man who came to Norway in 2004 sought asylum on the grounds he had worked for the Taliban, according to immigration files reviewed by Aftenposten . He admitted that he had participated in the arrest and torture of local officials in Afghanistan who resisted the Taliban. His application for asylum was initially turned down but granted on appeal, because he came from “an unstable area in Afghanistan” and had few ties to Kabul.
In another case, the son of a Taliban commander was granted asylum in Norway. He claimed his family was responsible for several murders and it was unsafe for him to return to Afghanistan. Another applicant said his family had smuggled weapons and ammunition for the Taliban.
Ties to the Taliban can result in asylum if the person involved was forced into the group, broke away from it or otherwise could fear reprisal from the Taliban now. It weighs heavily in their favor if they come from areas viewed as unsafe, Frode Forfang of the immigration agency UDI told Aftenposten .
Rieber-Mohn claimed none of those granted asylum have been linked to the deaths of Norwegian soldiers in Afghanistan. Andersen promised to launch a detailed inquiry into the case and proposals already are on the table to change the rules that allow Taliban ties to be a reason for asylum.