First Syrians win asylum in Norway

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Around 300 Syrian refugees have been granted asylum in Norway, the first of the thousand refugees from the Syrian civil war that Norway initially has agreed to take in. State immigration agency UDI, meanwhile, reports a decline in the number of other asylum seekers arriving in Norway.

The Zatari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan is among those that have received support from Norway. Most of the refugees are  now coming to Norway from camps in Lebanon. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet/Frode Overland

The Zatari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan is among those that have received support from Norway. Most of the refugees are now coming to Norway from camps in Lebanon. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet/Frode Overland

All of the Syrian refugees winning asylum are currently in Lebanon and expected to arrive in Norway this summer. Officials from Norwegian immigration agency UDI have been in Lebanon in recent weeks and interviewed roughly 300 applicants. Nearly all of them were approved.

Hanne Jendal of UDI told newspaper Dagsavisen on Monday that officials from the state directorate dealing with integration and diversity were working with various communities around Norway to find homes for the arriving Syrian refugees. They will receive housing, financial support, language training and other forms of assistance.

A total of around 1,000 Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in Norway by the end of the year. Norway has singled out families with small children, and excluded applicants with a grown family member who has taken active part in the civil war.

The asylum offered by Norway meets only a tiny percentage of the enormous demand for resettlement of the roughly 2.5 million Syrians who have fled their war-torn country. Most are currently living in massive refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Norway has also been sending financial aid to the camps.

Meanwhile, UDI director Frode Forfang reported that fewer asylum seekers from other countries have been arriving in Norway. A total of 568 persons sought asylum in Norway in February, the lowest number for a single month in seven years. The number was down 20 percent from February of last year.

The numbers were also down in January, and officials are unsure why, not least since other European countries including Sweden are experiencing increases in refugee arrivals.

“It’s too early to say whether the decline in asylum seekers is a trend or just temporary,” Forfang told news bureau NTB.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund