Protests fly over family’s deportation

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The sudden, middle-of-the night deportation of a refugee family to Jordan this week has sparked protests from their supporters, humanitarian organizations and several top politicians. Two opposition parties are claiming that they’ll try to bring the family back to Norway if they win government power this fall.

Norwegian immigration authorities had consistently rejected the asylum applications of the Ibrahim family despite their repeated appeals and subsequent reviews of their case over the past decade. The family has claimed they were Palestinians who fled Iraq, while Norwegian authorities claim the parents lied about their origins and that they actually came from Jordan.

Rude awakening
Their latest “final” decision on the case was up for review once again when police, summoned by the authorities, broke the window on the entry door to the family’s home at the Dale asylum center in Sandnes, Rogaland County, and woke up the parents and their four children in the early morning hours of Tuesday.

“They came with flashlights and said we had to get dressed,” 12-year-old Neda Ibrahim told newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad. “We had to leave lots of things behind, we just had to leave.” The family was then sent out of the country, on an SAS flight to Amman.

The young girl already had gained sympathy for her family’s cause and their attempts to remain in Norway, after telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) during a program on the plight of asylum children that “I like being in Norway but Norway doesn’t like me.” Not so, responded among others her classmates and teachers at Aspervika School in Sandnes, which she attended for six years. Supporters mounted efforts on the family’s behalf, to no avail.

‘Doing their job’
The family’s case has raised more debate over whether refugee families with children who have grown up or were born in Norway should receive special treatment by immigration authorities. Others are concerned that parents exploit their children when their own grounds for asylum are inadequate.

Several politicians and even a psychologist who works with asylum seekers reacted most negatively to what they called the “brutal” tactics used by the police and immigration authorities in the Ibrahim case. They argued it can unnecessarily traumatize the children, both the Ibrahims and others who now may fear the same fate in Norway.

The government minister in charge of family and integration issues, Inga Marte Thorkildsen, was also shaken by the case and promised that the government would do a better job of listening to children’s voices. Immigration authorities claimed they were simply doing their job and following the law, noting that the family had received lengthy and comprehensive reviews of their case.

‘Upset everyone’
Politicians for the Christian Democrats and the Liberal parties claimed they would try to reverse the immigration authorities’ decision and bring the Ibrahim family back to Norway if they win government power at the upcoming national election September 9.

“I think this has upset everyone,” Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday. “A girl who has lived in Norway so long, who is Norwegian, who feels Norwegian, has been sent out. A new government must have another look at this case.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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