“I feel happy, I cannot express how happy I am,” exclaimed deported Afghan interpreter Faizullah Muradi on national radio in Norway Tuesday morning. Muradi, on the phone from Italy, wasn’t the only one relieved that asylum cases like his will now be evaluated in Norway, and optimistic that he soon will be able to return to Norway as well.
Reaction was unanimously positive after the Norwegian government, under intense political pressure, changed course and decreed that from now on, all asylum cases involving interpreters who worked for Norwegian forces in Afghanistan will be evaluated in Norway. “The ministry will send instructions to (immigration agency) UDI, to establish a new practice in these cases,” Justice Minister Anders Anundsen of the Progress Party stated in a press release Monday night. That was “the only right” thing to do, claimed a chorus of opposition politicians.
The decision means Muradi, who was abruptly deported to Italy last week since that’s where he’d first entered Europe, now seems likely to be granted asylum in Norway and return soon. He and all the other Afghans who worked as interpreters for Norwegian military forces in Afghanistan have had strong and widespread support from Norwegian defense personnel. Many others also have stated repeatedly that Norway has a moral obligation to grant asylum to them, since many risked their own lives on behalf of the Norwegian military and continue to face death threats from the Taliban.
No rules were broken when police knocked on the door of Muradi’s temporary home in Mandal, southern Norway, last week, with orders to escort him out of the country. According to the so-called “Dublin Regulation,” asylum applications from people seeking refuge in the EU and European Economic Area (Norway is a member of the latter) are to be handled by their country of entry. In Muradi’s case, that was Italy and he ended up being delayed there to testify in a legal case regarding human trafficking.
He always intended to seek asylum in Norway, though, but after finally arriving he faced a new bureaucratic nightmare that culminated with last week’s deportation back to Italy. While it was in accordance with the rules UDI follows, it was widely viewed as simply wrong, and political reaction was swift. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who initially didn’t want to get involved in the case, later relented under political pressure and asked her justice minster, Anundsen, to reevaluate the case. That’s what led to the new rules UDI will now follow.
Anundsen couldn’t comment on Muradi’s case in particular, but told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) Tuesday morning that former interpreters seeking asylum in Norway will have the advantage of access to all the records of the “fantastic contributions” they made to Norway’s military operation in Afghanistan. That was a strong hint that Muradi, who’s been lauded for his own heroic contributions to Norwegian forces in Afghanistan, will benefit from the new asylum evaluation rules.
Muradi told NRK on the phone from Italy that he was grateful for all the support he’s had from former military colleagues, defense personnel, new friends in Mandal, many Members of Parliament and even the police. The police officer ordered to escort Muradi out of Norway had said on camera last week that he didn’t think the order was correct, and instantly became a hero on social media.
“I’m very optimistic now,” Muradi told NRK. “I want to return to Norway where I really feel at home, where I have my (military) brothers, where I have people who support me. I look forward to come home to Norway again, as soon as possible.”