Fate of refugee children under review

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The government has agreed to address conditions for refugee children and their families in Norway, after months of criticism from opposition parties. They may soon be placed in separate asylum centers designed with children in mind, and get their cases expedited.

“This wealthy country can afford to take a look at how we handle children seeking asylum,” Justice Minister Knut Storberget told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. He now agrees that children and families with small children should get special treatment.

That comes as welcome news to opposition parties like the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, who have been clamouring for better conditions and procedures for asylum seekers when children are involved.

Photos of crying children being sent out of the country with their families in recent months, as the government has stepped up deportations of those not qualifying for asylum, have made an impression on many politicians. Storberget now admits that the situation for refugee children in Norway hasn’t been good.

He wants to examine the entire process for juvenile asylum seekers, whether they arrive in Norway on their own or with their families. He especially wants to shorten the asylum process, from an average 240 days to 60 days, to give the families and their children quicker decisions on their applications.

That’s because many children currently are in Norway for two to three years before their applications are rejected. By that time, many have learned Norwegian and grown used to life in the country, only to be uprooted once again.

“Two to three years in the life of a child is a lot of time,” acknowledged Storberget.

Trine Skei Grande of the Liberal Party (Venstre) welcomed the chance to debate the fate of refugee children in Norway. “We have tried to take this up in Parliament so many times,” she told Aftenposten.

Geir-Jorgen Bekkevold of the Christian Democrats agreed. “This is fantastic, if he (Storberget) will discuss this,” Bekkevold said. “This is something we have fronted for a long time.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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