More than 50 internees at Norway’s only locked holding center for foreigners facing deportation staged an uproar Sunday night, vandalizing the facility adjacent to Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen. Local police had to call for reinforcements, and ambulances were called out as well.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that rioting broke out around 6pm at the center called Trandum, which confines rejected refugees and others residing illegally in Norway until they can be sent out of the country. “They’re smashing windows, breaking items and tearing down (security) cameras,” police operations leader Øyvind Strømsborg told NRK.
Initially ‘out of control’
Strømsborg said the uproar began with vandalism to the buildings at Trandum and to the grounds outside the buildings. Officials at the site, which is run by police attached to immigration agency UDI, were unable to contain the violence and called for help.
“We have most of our available personnel from Romerike (the region where Trandum is located) at the site, and we have received back-up from the Oslo Police District,” Strømsborg said. Fire fighters and health care personnel were also called to the scene. Many of the police at the scene were in full riot gear, carrying shields and wearing gas masks and helmets.
Police initially reported that they lacked control over the situation but by 8pm, they reported that “things have settled down” and that they had control. “We’re now working to transfer some of the persons involved to other facilities, so that we can get an overview of the situation and split up those who are causing the unrest,” Strømsborg told NRK.
Protesting conditions at the center
There were no initial reports of injuries and it was unclear what sparked the unrest, but one resident told newspaper Dagbladet that they were “striking to protest conditions” at the center. They complained about the food, allegedly insufficient exercise equipment and recreational activities, and that they were being locked indoors earlier on the weekends.
“It’s much better in normal prisons (in Norway),” he told Dagbladet. “There they have a library, athletic facilities and normal food.”
One group of residents reportedly had agreed among themselves not to return to their rooms after their last outdoor break of the day. They refused to be locked indoors for the night, even though temperatures outdoors were at the freezing point. Dagbladet reported that police threatened to end the protest by spraying those involved with high-pressure water hoses. Those giving up were handcuffed and dispersed among various departments at the center.
Trandum is part of a former military camp at Gardermoen, and is Norway’s only locked facility for foreigners facing deportation either because they have committed crimes, have been rejected for asylum or have been found to be residing illegally in the country. The center also houses some asylum seekers whose identities haven’t been confirmed by immigration officials.