The influx of thousands of asylum seekers into Norway in recent months has raised fears that local authorities haven’t been able to sufficiently control who’s crossing the borders. News that a man posing as an asylum seeker was among the terrorists attacking Paris on Friday has sparked alarms in Norway as well as in many other countries.
“We can’t say that we have good control over all those arriving,” Jon Fitje Hoffmann of Norway’s police intelligence agency PST (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste) told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. “Norway’s borders are open and very many (asylum seekers) have arrived without ID papers.”
‘Premature’ to claim any real danger
PST chief Benedicte Bjørnland seemed to downplay fears of a terrorist attack in Norway in an appearance on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s nightly national newscast Dagsrevyen, but she admitted to “uncertainty” over the identities and goals of all the roughly 27,000 asylum seekers now in Norway. Bjørnland acknowledged that the terror threat in Norway would rise if PST can confirm that terrorists and agents of Syria’s embattled regime are in Norway.
“We view it as probable that people who have fought on (Syrian) President Assad’s side in the civil war have come to Norway, and that people with ties to IS may have come,” Bjørnland said. “But that doesn’t mean they came here with an intent to carry out terrorist attacks.”
Bjørnland told NRK that if intelligence determines that IS has “changed its pattern” and is sending terrorists to Europe, it would “have consequences” for PST’s evaluation of the terror threat in Norway. She claimed it was “premature,” however, to say that there’s any real danger at present.
“As of today, PST has no intelligence information to shore up any claims that there are terrorists among the refugees and asylum seekers who are coming to Norway,” she told NRK.
Hundreds of asylum seekers have disappeared
Newspaper VG reported this week that more than 1,500 asylum seekers who were registered with police at the end of October have since disappeared from Norwegian asylum centers. The majority, 934, had been ordered to leave Norway because their asylum applications were rejected.
Asylum centers in Norway are not locked and are viewed as an offer of accommodation, free of charge. Håkon Fenstad of state immigration agency UDI told VG that anyone choosing not to reside in the centers is free to seek residence elsewhere at their own expense, but must provide an address.
The roughly 1,500 now missing did not do so, and Fenstad conceded that both UDI and police have “limited possibilites” to search for those who have disappeared. Both have been overwhelmed by the current refugee crisis, as the government and state bureaucrats scramble to meet demand.
Justice Minister Anders Anundsen has secured funding for more resources for the police, and more border patrol officers. He has also asked for a new terror threat evaluation from PST, with emphasis on the concerns that IS sympathizers have arrived in Norway posing as asylum seekers.
“With the volume arriving now, it’s difficult to conduct the interviews and controls needed,” Anundsen told NRK. “Therefore I’ve asked PST for an evaluation tied to exactly that problem.”