UPDATED: More than 3,000 signatures gathered by Norwegian veterans in support of deported Afghan interpreter Faizulla Muradi were presented to the Justice Ministry on Friday. Muradi, meanwhile, said over the weekend that he hopes the Defense Ministry will also argue in favor of his return to Norway, after immigration officials ordered him sent back to Italy, where he’d first entered Europe, early last week.
Muradi said didn’t dare seek asylum in Italy, for fear he’ll be rejected and sent back to Afghanistan. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he has no idea what will happen to him now.
The 22-year-old acted as an interpreter and took part in combat alongside Norwegian forces in Afghanistan when he was 18. Branded a traitor by the Taliban, he fled to Italy but was held up for two years while Italian authorities investigated a human smuggling case.
When Muradi finally reached Norway, he was told his asylum application had to be processed in Italy where he entered Europe. He was deported last Tuesday to the outrage of humanitarian groups, war veterans and opposition politicians, who said the government could and should have processed the application of a man who’d risked his life for Norwegian troops. Prime Minister Erna Solberg agreed under pressure to a new assessment late on Wednesday.
After a national holiday on Thursday, veterans stood outside the Justice Ministry on Friday, waiting until state secretary Himansh Gulati finally came out to accept the 3,195 signature petition, reported NRK. “Thank you for the delivery,” said Gulati. “We are going to look through this and take it further.”
“I have hope that Faizullah can be allowed to stay as a result of this, but my expectations are not quite there yet,” said Geir Dolonen-Marthinussen from the Norwegian Veterans Association (Norges Veteranforbund). “I thought it was completely wrong of Norway not to handle his asylum application. He has fought for Norway, with Norwegian weapons, with the Norwegian flag on his shoulder. We have a special responsibility to ensure he gets the opportunity to be in Norway.”
The veterans urged the justice ministry to expedite the case. Time was of the essence for Muradi, who was only granted five days to apply for asylum in Italy, or a new residence permit. “It is urgent,” he told newspaper Dagbladet. “Now I have three days to resume my case here in Italy. If nothing happens within that time, I can be send to Greece, and after that to Afghanistan.”
If Muradi’s application is rejected in Italy, he cannot seek asylum again in Norway. He said the head of the immigration office in Italy personally advised him to seek asylum in Norway, because the documents he had would not mean as much to the Italian authorities.
Defense Ministry officials said they were reluctant to get involved in cases involving asylum or immigration issues, but confirmed to NRK that they had forwarded records of Muradi’s work for the Norwegian military while in Afghanistan. Justice Ministry officials wouldn’t comment on his case Saturday, but are under pressure to reverse Muradi’s deportation and bring him back to Norway.