Norway’s Christian Democrats party has gone along with forming a majority in Parliament that will stop state immigration agency UDI from revoking citizenship granted to immigrants on false premises. Only the courts will be able to revoke citizenship in the future.
The move means that both the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet, KrF) and the Liberals (Venstre) are breaking their cooperation agreement with Norway’s conservative minority government coalition. Neither were willing to compromise their own values and principles to allow UDI’s current government-sanctioned passport revocation campaign to continue.
Controversy and conflict has already raged over the government’s forced returns of refugees whose asylum applications were rejected. An additional debate over ongoing moves by UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) to hunt down former asylum seekers suspected of having falsified citizenship applications came to a head last week, when TV2 reported the case of a well-integrated bioengineer working at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo who said he came from Somalia. After 17 years in Norway, UDI determined that he came from Djibouti instead and the Norwegian citizenship he’d been granted in 2008 was revoked. The young man will no longer be able to work and faces being stateless, since Djibouti won’t give him citizenship either.
The case has sparked shock and outrage, also among four political parties in Parliament that proposed stripping UDI of the power to revoke citizenship and handing it over to the courts. The proposed law change needed a majority in Parliament, and now the Labour, Center, Greens and Socialist Left parties have won support from the two centrist parties that normally support the government, the Christian Democrats and Liberals. The Liberals were already on board, and now the Christian Democrats have joined them as well.
“We want to have better processes and have therefore decided to support the proposal that impartial courts shall decide cases regarding citizenship,” Knut Arild Hareide, leader of the Christian Democrats, said on Wednesday.
Hans Peter Graver, a law professor at the University of Oslo, had told state broadcaster NRK earlier this week that it wasn’t enough for UDI to revoke citizenship based only a lie. Others maintain that immigrants who willingly lie about their past, or present false information and indentification, should not qualify for citizenship and face possible revocation. Still others argue that if citizenship already has been granted, there should be a time limit for revocation. In the bioengineer’s case, he was only 14 years old when he arrived in Norway alone. His father had listed Somalia as his place of birth, even though he has admitted that the family had fled Somalia’s war and moved to Ethiopia.
His pending loss of citizenship is already about to be appealed in court, so the law change that now looms may not affect him. It will, however, likely apply to many others.
The Christian Democrats’ decision to give opposition parties the critical swing vote on the issue is a blow to the government coalition, made up of the Conservative and Progress parties. Both have been facing rising criticism over strict new immigration and asylum policies, and how they’re being carried out.