Cuts loom at immigration agency

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Norway’s immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) warns of more delays in processing immigration and asylum cases, because of budget cuts that will eliminate 100 staff positions. Some rejected refugees from Chechnya, meanwhile, may avoid being sent home.

A sharp decline in the total number of asylum seekers arriving in Norway has led the government to cut allocations to UDI, which now in turn faces cutting staff hired to handle last year’s jump in asylum seekers. Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that UDI Director Ida Børresen wanted to retain the staff, to fulfill another government wish that processing time for all new arrivals be reduced.

UDI had been granted financial resources to handle around 18,500 asylum seekers this year. Instead, only around 10,000 are expected to have arrived in Norway by yearend, and UDI was using its resources to reduce a backlog of thousands of other cases. That capacity will now be reduced.

Meanwhile, immigration authorities are facing demands to halt forced deportations of rejected refugees from Chechnya, reports Aftenposten. While UDI officials don’t think the refugees from Chechnya will face harassment back home, a Norwegian court thinks they will.

The court overruled a decision by immigration authorities to return a woman and her son to Chechnya, immigration officials have decided not to appeal, and now the human rights group Norwegian Helsinki Committee wants all forced returns to be halted.

“We fear that persons with rights to protection will be returned to persecution,” Aage Borchgrevink of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee told Aftenposten.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Amnesty International and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) have long criticized Norway’s policies on Chechnyan refugees as being much too strict. Several organizations have pointed up severe cases of human rights violations in Chechnya, including disappearances, torture, abuse, illegal confinement and the torching of the homes of persons viewed as being connected to dissident groups.

So far this year, however, only 18 of 652 persons from Chechnya seeking asylum in Norway have succeeded. More than 400 have been rejected.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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