Twelve-year-old Neda Ibrahim and her family have made a final impassioned plea to be allowed to return to the country they called home for 10 years. The appeal to an Oslo city court by one of Norway’s most well-known asylbarn (refugee children) began this week after a delay based on an earlier judge’s alleged impartiality.
Speaking via telephone from the Norwegian Embassy in Jordan, Neda told the court in Oslo that life is much better for the family in Norway. “There we had friends, a house, our own rooms and a bed,” she said. “Here in Jordan it is difficult. We all sleep in the same room, it is difficult at school and the other students laugh at me because I am not clever.” Neda, who grew up in Norway and speaks fluent Sandnes dialect, said she had trouble in the local school in Jordan because she doesn’t understand the language well.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that many sitting in the Oslo courtroom were moved to tears as they heard the child’s testimony. “This is my last hope,” she said. Her father Said Ibrahim told the court the family is living near the Syrian border, where his children are frightened by the sound of bombing and don’t want to go to school.
In June this year, Norwegian authorities made a nighttime raid on the Ibrahim’s home in a Sandnes asylum center. The two adults and four children were deported to Jordan, following a decade of appeals and reviews of the family’s case. They claim they are Palestinians who fled Iraq, but the Norwegian government has ruled the parents are actually Jordanian and had lied to illegally gain asylum.
The case has sparked debate over the rights of refugee children who are born or grow up in Norway, while highlighting concerns that parents may exploit their children to strengthen tenuous asylum claims.
There was doubt the ‘Neda Case’ could even proceed this week, after the presiding judge took ill and another judge, Kim Heger, was appointed to take over. But government lawyers objected that Heger lacked impartiality, Aftenposten reported. The lawyers cited a series of social media messages Heger posted about the case in June.
The case has proceeded under Judge Arne Lyng, with a decision expected within two weeks.