Norwegian police and intelligence officers have confirmed that several people believed to have taken part in violent jihadist operations abroad have tried to seek asylum in Norway. They don’t qualify, and immigration officials are stepping up efforts to send them out of the country.
Newspaper Dagsavisen reported on Monday that officials believe people tied to the extremely violent terrorist organizations IS in Syria, Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia have all sought asylum in Norway. During their asylum hearings, police have seized their mobile phones that contain photos and video clips of torture, mutilation and executions.
“It’s correct that we have concerns about some people who have arrived here (in Norway) as asylum seekers,” Martin Bernsen, spokesman for the police intelligence unit PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste), told Dagsavisen. “There is great uncertainty around several who are currently in Norway.”
The police unit attached to immigration agency UDI (Politiets utlengingsenhet) reportedly has been able to uncover several people tied to IS, Al-Shabaar and Boko Haram who, through various channels, have “tried to sneak into Norway,” reported Dagsavisen. Anyone, though, found to have taken part in criminal or terrorist acts is either subject to criminal prosecution or deportation.
“It can be very demanding to find out who these people are and what they have done,” Hanne Jendal, director of UDI’s asylum division, told Dagsavisen in a story that was getting wide coverage on other media in Norway Monday morning. “We have to detect whether they have taken part in terrorist operations, deserted a terrorist operation or defected from a terrorist organization, and that’s critical for our evaluation of their application.”
There’s also a fear that those seeking asylum are in fact agents for the terrorist organizations, who may seek to carry out new operations where they’ve been sent. All asylum seekers are subjected to questioning that police describe as “tough” but necessary to weed out suspected jihadists.
Those deported try to return
Figures collected by Dagsavisen suggest that around 100 people with a history as jihadists have been detected by immigration officials and police since 2008. Most are from Iraq, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Somalia, but also from Russia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Equatorial Guinea, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe.
Nearly all have been sent back to their homelands unless, as in the case of former asylum seeker Mullah Krekar who has led guerrilla operations in Iraq, they face torture or death penalties at home. Then some have received temporary residence status that is re-evaluated every six months, and they are not allowed to bring family members to Norway as Krekar was.
Bernsen of PST noted, however, that several who have been deported attempt to return to Norway. He wouldn’t detail who they are, but Dagsavisen reported that among them is a Taliban leader from Afghanistan who has been active in the Norwegian Islamist group Profetens Ummah.
Rolf-Arne Kurthi of the police said that around 98 percent of asylum seekers arriving in Norway are legitimate but the other 2 percent can have been involved in terror, war crimes or human smuggling. If they are found to have committed crimes, international police unit KRIPOS is also called in for possible further prosecution.