As Norway’s government issued new orders to further tighten border control, those working at the border stations were uncertain on Wednesday over how inspections are supposed to carried out. “We haven’t received information on exactly what we’re supposed to do,” one border guard told state broadcaster NRK Wednesday morning.
The stricter border control is supposed to begin at 8am Thursday, after Prime Minister Erna Solberg followed Sweden’s lead in trying to halt the mass influx of asylum seekers. Swedish government officials have admitted they can no longer accommodate more asylum seekers after already taking in more than 80,000 just over the past two months.
“We can’t wait for the same thing to happen in Norway,” Solberg said after instructing Justice Minister Anders Anundsen to in turn order stricter border procedures. The idea is to prevent unqualified asylum seekers from entering Norway, and seeking help in other European countries instead.
‘Quite new’ and unclear procedures
Customs agents and police working at border crossings remained unclear over what the actual procedures will be, or what they’ll do with people who may be turned away. “This is quite new for me, too, and I haven’t received information on what we’re to do,” Fredrik Støtvig, leader of the Norwegian customs agents federation (Norsk Tollerforbund) told NRK. “But we are in place at border control posts, we have competence and will do what we can to help in the situation the country is now in.”
With Sweden intending to crack down on arriving refugees, Norwegian officials fears even more will attempt entry into Norway. In addition to demanding paperwork that would allow legal entry into Norway, Solberg said that ferry lines from Denmark, Sweden and Germany will be obligated to control all passengers on board. “They must make sure that they don’t allow passengers on board who lack valid travel documents,” Solberg said.
She added that stricter identity and paperwork controls will also be conducted on busses and trains entering Norway, and all private vehicles are to be stopped and checked at border crossings. It remained unclear what will happen with asylum seekers denied entry into Norway.
As ‘painless’ as possible
Norwegian motorists and passengers traveling on ferries during the busy pre-Christmas season will likely need to expect longer check-in procedures. “We will try to do this as painlessly as possible, but we must introduce new measures to have better control over our borders,” Justice Minister Anundsen said. “We see that the outer borders (of Europe) are breaking down, and then we must make sure we have as strong control over our own borders as possible.”
Norway’s government was also following through on plans to tighten the country’s northernmost border to Russia at Storskog. Formal instructions went out Wednesday morning to officials at both immigration agency UDI and its appeals board UNE that any asylum seekers arriving at the border to Russia who already have residence permission in Russia will have asylum applications summarily rejected without going through the normal application process.
Anundsaid claimed it was an abuse of the asylum system when people choose to travel from Russia to Norway to seek asylum, and do not meet demands for protection. Around 2,000 asylum seekers have crossed the northern border so far this year.