‘Neda’ family faces rejection again

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UPDATED: A 12-year-old girl and her asylum-seeker family who spent a decade living in Norway are in “deep sorrow and crisis,” after the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board (Utlendingsnemnda) once again rejected the family’s appeal to return to the country they call home. The new decision comes just weeks after a court in Oslo had rejected the board’s earlier deportation order as invalid.

The Ibrahim family was deported to Jordan after a nighttime raid on their home in a Sandnes asylum centre in June. After police found Jordanian passports for the family in their home, the Immigration Appeals Board ruled the parents had lied on their original application for asylum in claiming they were Palestinians from Iraq. The board deemed the family of six is actually Jordanian and not in need of protection, reports newspaper Dagsavisen.

Last year 12-year-old Neda became the face of the family’s campaign to stay, after her Sandnes-dialect lamentation that “I love Norway, but Norway doesn’t love me” captured national attention. It became part of a wider debate on whether the rights of refugee children should take precedence over immigration laws.

In its lastest decision, the Immigration Appeals Board has again rejected the family’s claim for the sixth time. The board says it has considered the ruling from last month’s court case, but deemed the law carries more weight than the children’s connection to Norway.

“The board has thus taken up the case for a new assessment, and applied the instructions provided by the court’s ruling. The ruling from the Oslo court lays no guidelines on the outcome of the case,”  Ingunn-Sofie Aursnes, director of the Immigration Appeals Board, told Dagsavisen.

A spokeswoman for the family, Heidi Bjerga, says the family is now in deep sorrow and crisis after losing their final hope of returning to Norway. Bjerga says the family has no support network in Jordan, and that the mother is extremely distressed and sick from stress. Neda herself told the newspaper VG that “I don’t think the board has heard the judges from the last court case. It is very difficult. I still hope the family gets to come home to Norway.”

On Tuesday, the family decided to appeal the new immigration board decision, meaning they’ll likely be back in court next year. Arild Humlen, who has worked as attorney for the family, confirmed to news bureau NTB that he is now preparing a new case on the family’s behalf.

The Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) has criticized the decision, saying the Immigration Appeals Board is scared the “Neda case” will set a precedent for cases involving other refugee children. The leader of the Reds Party, Bjørnar Moxnes has slammed the judgment, saying refugee children cases should be frozen until a dedicated asylum court is established. “We have an asylum system where children are taken in the middle of the night, and court decisions are set aside when the authorities see fit. Had this have happened in another land, we would call it psychological terror.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate