Frode Forfang, director of Norway’s immigration agency UDI, said on Thursday that Norway now needs to provide shelter for as many as 100,000 asylum seekers by the end of next year. The thousands who already have arrived in Norway face lengthy delays in getting their applications processed.
Forfang, who’s been leading efforts to accommodate all those who continue to arrive in Norway, warned that the numbers of asylum seekers continues to increase. “The situation is critical in terms of covering the need for asylum reception centers,” Forfang said at a press briefing on Thursday.
He stressed that “time will show” how many beds in reception centers will actually be needed, but he believes there will be a need to plan for creation of 100,ooo beds for next year. That’s more than three times the number previously anticipated, which itself was huge compared to numbers of people who have historically sought asylum in Norway.
“Even if we cut our estimates by half, we’ll still need 40,000 to 50,000 new places for new arrivals,” Forfang said, and asked local municipalities to help create them.
“We have to do something different and more than we have done before,” said the director of UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet). Forfang has generally received good marks for how he and his colleagues have responded to the refugee crisis that started hitting Norway last summer. But now he admits to “a big gap between the need for reception centers and access to them.” The gap, he said, “will just get bigger if we don’t increase our tempo.”
All 900 spots at an emergency center set up at Råde in Østfold County last month, just north of the Swedish border, were filled within days, for example. The idea was for new arrivals to only be there for a few days, while they were being registered and until they could be sent to other asylum centers around the country. But they’re all full as well, so many asylum seekers are having to remain in the transit centers much longer than expected.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) was also reporting on Thursday that asylum seekers now face lengthy delays, of as long as one to two years, in actually obtaining asylum. That’s because UDI is giving priority to handling the cases of those who have no documented need for protection, and sending them out of the country. “We are giving priority to those who can be sent out of the country first,” Forfang confirmed. He said UDI views that as the “most efficient means” of opening up space for others with legitimate need for accommodation in Norway.
Forgang said UDI is now asking both civilian and military building authorities, Statsbygg and Forsvarsbygg, to create large facilities that may resemble refugee camps in other countries. Until now, Norway has been trying to house refugees in school dormitories, hotels and private homes but the supply is running out. “We need new, large projects,” Forfang said. “We want to set up large barracks to supplement the existing asylum centers.”