Norway’s state police directorate has been pressured into reversing a controversial new rule, imposed with no warning, that could leave thousands of Norwegians with passports showing their birthplace as “unknown.”
“We’re trying as hard as we can to respond to the feedback we have had from Norwegian citizens who are not born in Norway, but who have experienced that their place of birth is not printed in their new passports,” Astrid Borge, division chief of the state police directorate, told news bureau NTB.
The new rules, which took effect June 2, caused an immediate uproar, especially among those who were adopted from abroad and brought to Norway by Norwegian parents. Naturalized citizens born in around 30 countries, mostly in Asia and Africa, risked having “Birthplace unknown” printed on their passports, even if they hold a current passport with their correct birthplace.
The police, it appears, made the decision themselves that information considered not to be sufficiently credible could no longer be included in passports. Many people born abroad lack birth certificates, and police decided to no longer accept the papers they were issued, years ago in many cases.
Tens of thousands of Norwegian passport holders thus face being issued passports that could cause problems or deny them entry into countries like the US and China. The Norwegian police simply underestimated the problems their new rules would cause, and Justice Minister Anders Anundsen asked them to “clean up” the problems they’d created.
Police will now continue to use the same birthplace information that was accepted in prior years. In cases where no documentation is available, the passport holder’s country of birth will be sufficient.
The news Thursday was likely to come as a relief to those affected, several of whom claimed in local media that they’d come to feel like “second-class citizens” because of the new rules. “This was an attack against Norwegian citizens who are not of western origin,” Philip Marcussen, who was adopted from Vietnam as a child, wrote in newspaper Aftenposten last week. “How could you (the police) do this against us?” Police officials have since apologized.