Norway looks set to break a new record this year in deportations of asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected. Police rounded up around 70 Kosovo Albanians over the weekend, put them on a chartered jet and flew them back to Serbia.
The forced deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers on Saturday bring the total number so far this year to more than 4,000, reports newspaper Aftenposten, up 63 percent from last year. The deportations also signal a harder line from the country’s left-center government, which has been under pressure from opposition politicians clamouring for more restrictive immigration policies.
While human rights groups and refugee organizations bashed the deportations, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg defended them on national TV. Justice Minister Knut Storberget also said the forced deportation of persons lacking legal residence permission in Norway will continue to be a high priority for government authorities.
Both Stoltenberg and Storberget stressed that the persons sent out of the country have had their applications for asylum reviewed at several levels during a lengthy appeals process. The deportations only occur, they claim, when the persons involved cannot prove a need for protection.
A new agreement hammered out with the Serbian authorities last spring cleared the way for the weekend deportations. The Norwegian authorities claim the Kosovo Albanians had no legal need or right to remain in Norway, and had stayed illegally for several years. Norway seemed assured their rights would be respected once back in Serbia.
Police knocked on the doors of their homes early Saturday morning, in a coordinated action carried out in several Norwegian cities from Mandal in the south to Vadsø in the north. The rejected refugees, many of them families with small children, were flown to Belgrade on a specially chartered jet Saturday afternoon.