Ambassador blasts asylum plan

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Afghanistan’s ambassador to Norway doesn’t think a Norwegian government plan to curb the refugee stream from her war-torn country has much chance of succeeding. Asylum seekers from Afghanistan will keep coming, she says.

Afghanistan's ambassador to Norway, Manizha Bakhtari. PHOTO: Forsvaret

Manizha Bakhtari, who arrived in Oslo last year, told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend that she welcomes the Norwegian government’s plan to finance establishment of care and resource centers for young Afghans in Kabul.

“But such a center won’t stop young Afghans from coming here,” Bakhtari told Aftenposten. “You must remember that Afghanistan is a country that’s struggling with war, poverty and a lack of job and educational opportunities. That’s why the young leave.”

Norwegian officials plan to set up a center in Kabul that can accommodate 100 young Afghans. Half are expected to be young asylum seekers who arrived in Norway but will be sent back to Afghanistan. A similar center is planned for Northern Iraq.

Bakhtari doesn’t want Norwegian immigration officials to forcibly return young Afghan asylum seekers. Many of them have already suffered so much, she told Aftenposten, both in their homeland and on their way to Norway. Many have lost both parents in the war.

“Forced return will subject them to new trauma, they will feel abused,” she said. “That will lead to further burdens on Afghanistan.”

She also urged the Norwegians to ensure that the centers they plan to build will be used for teaching, job training and health care, and not simply as a place to shelter the young Afghans.

Several human rights organizations also have criticized Norway’s plans. The Norwegian chapter of Save the Children (Redd Barna) says Norway needs to understand why young Afghans flee, arguing that many girls and boys are sold by their families to end up as virtual slave labour or in prostitution.

“These youngsters are victims of their circumstances,” Poul Brandrup of Redd Barna told Aftenposten. “They must have our protection.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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