An appeals court in Oslo repeated its order from Monday that Norway’s most celebrated illegal alien, Maria Amelie, be set free from police custody at an asylum center near Gardermoen. She was escorted out of detention shortly before 11am on Tuesday by her defense attorney Brynjulf Risnes.
Hundreds of Norwegians had held another protest demonstration in Oslo Monday evening, this one attracting the bishop of Oslo, as concerns rose over Amelie’s fate. Human rights advocates warn she faces a tough life in Russia, where Norwegian immigration authorities intend to send her.
Amelie’s defense attorney now thinks her pending deportation will be delayed until Norway’s Supreme Court rules on the immigration authorities’ appeal of a court ruling on Monday ordering her release from detention. She had been held at the Trandum asylum center near Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen since her arrest last week.
On Tuesday, the court struck down a police request that she continue to be held in custody pending the Supreme Court’s decision. A relieved Amelie chatted briefly with reporters before Risnes said he’d drive her to her boyfriend’s home where she could unwind after her recent ordeal.
She said she was “very glad” to be free, at least temporarily, “and see the sky again.” She called her release “a small, nice victory,” but was well aware she still faces huge challenges and fears being sent out of the country. “That’s the absolute worst,” she said.
She will remain free until her possible deportation, but will be required to check in daily with police until January 27. She said she may visit her publisher, Pax Forlag, but most of all wanted to be with “people whom I have missed and who I love.” She said she was grateful for all the support she has received, and was sorry that her case has caused such turmoil.
Higher hopes and concerns
Monday’s court ruling was indeed a victory for Amelie, age 25, and boosted hopes of those who want her to be allowed to stay in Norway. Amelie came to Norway as a minor with her parents from North Ossetia nearly nine years ago and stayed illegally after the family was denied asylum. She now is being hailed for drawing attention to the plight of thousands of undocumented workers in Norway, not least by writing a book about her situation last year.
Her case is controversial, though, and the Labour Party-led government so far hasn’t backed down from its position that immigration rules must be followed. Amidst all the support for her case, which Monday included Oslo Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme joining calls that she be allowed to settle legally in Norway, wrote one young reader in newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday that she “has resided here illegally, worked without paying taxes, taken education ahead of other taxpayers and broken the law. We must follow immigration policies, even if she has written a book and become a celebrity.”
Others argue that the government’s position and the police handling of her case have been far too harsh. Since she hasn’t agreed to return to her homeland voluntarily, she also won’t receive any funds from the Norwegian state to help her start a new life in Russia. She may encounter difficulties securing legal residence papers in Russia and faces discrimination and racism because of her background from the Caucasus.
Some Norwegians living in Moscow reportedly have offered her a place to stay, and if immigration rules are eased, she may be able to return to Norway where she has several job offers and has signed an employment contract, but probably not for several months.
Meanwhile, her book has been selling briskly and her publisher, Pax Forlag, has ordered two additional printings to meet demand. “Interest is enormous,” Pax sales chief Gunhild Nohre-Walldén told Aftenposten. “I have an order for another few thousand books already.”