Demonstrations continued over the weekend to demand more rights for the thousands of undocumented workers who have been in Norway for many years. A long list of high-profile officials put out a call for at least moderate forms of amnesty for people who otherwise face continued exploitation and fear.
Several bishops, the leaders of humanitarian organizations, even the head of the Norwegian lawyers’ association signed an open letter addressed to the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) and the government (regjeringen), asking for the following changes in current Norwegian law:
** That children who have lived at least three or four years in Norway be granted residence permission,
** That all persons resident in Norway, both legally and illegally, be entitled to health care services,
** That a limit be set on how long a person can be deemed “illegal” in Norway. Many of today’s illegal aliens have been in Norway for several years, some of them forced to legally wait for up to four years for their cases to be decided.
Protesters, several hundred of whom marched through the streets of Oslo on Saturday, claimed that many illegal aliens have integrated into Norwegian society even though they have no rights in the country. Others wind up on the streets, while all risk being exploited by a cynical labour market or by criminal gangs. Most, however, “want the right to work legally, contribute to society and pay taxes, claimed those signing the appeal.
They stated at the outset that their effort to reform Norwegian immigration and asylum laws, and improve conditions for undocumented workers, has been inspired by the case of Maria Amelie, the young woman who came to Norway from the Caucasus as a minor but whose family was turned down for asylum. Amelie and her parents stayed in the country illegally and she managed to obtain an education, even a master’s degree, before going public last year when she wrote a book about her situation. She was arrested earlier this month and was ordered sent back to Russia after nearly nine years in Norway.
“We are grateful that Maria Amelie and her supporters have told a story about what it’s like to be a papirløs (undocumented) refugee in Norway,” wrote those signing the appeal. “Now we want to turn attention to all the other undocumented workers.”
Demonstrations over the weekend were the latest in a series of protests against Norway’s strict immigration laws and in support of Amelie. (See photos here.) Other demonstrators on Saturday highlighted the case of Abdulkarim Hossain, a rejected Kurdish refugee who was forcibly returned to Syria last August despite protests and warnings that he’d be in danger there. Officials of the Association for Syrian Kurds in Norway (KKSN) say he was arrested on arrival and tortured in prison.
Abdulkarim Hossain had advocated human rights for Kurds in Syria, where the Kurdish minority faces discrimination. After a series of detentions and travel restrictions, he fled and sought asylum in Norway in 2006. He eventually joined the leadership of KKSN and an anti-racism group in Norway before being deported last summer.
KKSN is calling for an immediate halt to forced returns of Syrian Kurds and demanding that Abdulkarim Hossain, who since has fled to Turkey, be granted political asylum in Norway.