The Norwegian government has tightened its refugee rules, meaning people who lie about having already sought asylum in other countries will be expelled. They will also face tougher punishments if they return to Norway, violating their entry ban.
According to the Dublin Regulation, an agreement between 29 European countries, asylum claims will only be processed once and usually in the place where the refugee first entered the EU. People are tracked through the Eurodac fingerprint register of asylum seekers across the EU, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.
Last May, the former Stoltenberg government decided the police and immigration agency UDI should no longer be able to expel asylum seekers just for lying about having already sought asylum elsewhere in Europe. The reasoning was to save the police, UDI and courts from the work of handling deportation cases, reported newspaper Aftenposten. Resources were then freed up for quicker handling and deportation.
Justice Minister Anders Anundsen from the Progress Party (Fremskrittpartiet, FrP) repealed that regulation with from January 1 this year. His decision was partly based on recent UDI figures which show 2,590 asylum seekers were rejected in Norway under the Dublin rules up until December last year. That’s an increase of about 50 percent on 2012. The average case handling time was 58 days, a week longer than the year before. Most of those rejected had already sought asylum in Italy, Sweden, Greece or Switzerland. Almost 30 had sought asylum in at least seven different countries before they came to Norway.
The Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) said the rule change won’t stem the stream of refugees into Norway. “I think few asylum seekers care that the government’s made this change,” said NOAS legal adviser André Møkkelgjerd.
“An asylum seeker who lives in the street in Athens or Rome without money, food or shelter has entirely different considerations when he or she wonders whether to travel north,” he continued. “The majority of asylum seekers must pass through many other countries before reaching Norway. Last year zero percent of refugees got to stay in Greece, while 93 percent got to stay in Sweden.”