As more details emerge about arrested illegal alien Maria Amelie and her pending deportation, thousands more like her are living in Norway in fear they’ll be rounded up as well. Controversy is raging over their fate and the government itself now seems split on the issue.
Humanitarian organizations like Amnesty International and Norwegian People’s Aid (Norsk Folkehjelp) estimate that 3,000 immigrants have been in Norway without legal residence permission for more than five years, reports newspaper Aftenposten. No one knows exactly, however, how many undocumented workers (called “papirløse” in Norwegian) reside in the country and it’s likely to be many, many more, according to state statistics bureau SSB.
Most agree that immigration officials and police followed the rules in arresting Maria Amelie Wednesday night after she’d delivered a speech in Lillehammer on the plight of undocumented workers. The controversy and massive protests are over the rules themselves, which recently were beefed up in an attempt by the current left-center government coalition to silence criticism that their asylum policies were too liberal, and step up deportations of those with no legal right to be in Norway. Rejected refugees have been sent out of the country on a regular basis over the past year.
Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg continued to defend the pending deportation of Maria Amelie, insisting that all persons who haven’t met residence requirements in Norway must be treated equally. Amelie shouldn’t get special treatment, he reasons, just because she has written a book about her situation, integrated well into society and even managed to earn a master’s degree at university in Trondheim.
A groundswell of support for Amelie indicates that many, including members of his own government, disagree with Stoltenberg. Even the opposition Progress Party, Norway’s most conservative which for years has argued for restrictive immigration policies, questioned why former guerrilla leader Mullah Krekar is allowed to go free in Norway pending his own deportation, while Amelie was seized by eight policemen and is being held in detention pending her deportation, which she has appealed.
Clearly the 25-year-old, fashionable Amelie, a pseudonym for her real name which newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reports is Madina Salamova, has struck a nerve and won great popularity among Norwegians.
More details on Amelie’s background
She was born in the former Soviet Union, according to newspaper Dagsavisen, in the city of Vladikavkaz in the autonomous republic of Nord-Ossetia in 1985. Her father was a successful businessman, her mother reportedly keen on being a politician. Even though Nord-Ossetia, largely populated by Christians, wasn’t as vulnerable to the religious and sectarian violence raging elsewhere in the Caucasus, there was unrest and just a few months ago, a car bomb killed 15 at a local market.
Amelie has never said why her family fled, and there’s speculation it resulted either from conflicts with local mafia or authorities. They went first to Finland, where they were rejected, and then to Norway, where they also were turned down for asylum in 2004.
They stayed, however, and Amelie took on cleaning jobs for cash while learning Norwegian, studying (allegedly under false identity) and getting top marks and eventually a master’s degree. Her parents also remain illegally in Norway, at an undisclosed location. Amelie, however, went public by writing a book about her experiences last year, saying it was the only way she could maintain her integrity.
She seems to be paying a high price for her openness. Now the Norwegian authorities intend to send Amelie and her parents back to Russia, not to Nord-Ossetia where it’s agreed they may face persecution, but somewhere else in the vast country. Russian authorities, reports Dagsavisen, have confirmed her citizenship and will accept the family if they’re returned. There were no guarantees issued, however, for their security and appeals continue to rage in Norway that they ultimately will be allowed to stay.