The numbers of asylum seekers who have made it on their own to Norway have fallen to their lowest level in more than two decades. Most of the decline is linked to closed borders in southern Europe that have prevented refugees from traveling north.
New numbers from state immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) show that only 2,380 people arrived in Norway and sought asylum during the first six months of this year.
Arrivals down by a third
“If we don’t count asylum seekers who have been relocated to Norway, their numbers have declined by a third since the first half of last year,” said Frode Forfang, director of UDI, when the numbers were released on Friday.
Around half of the asylum seekers relocated to Norway have come from refugee camps in Italy and Greece. “Norway has, in cooperation with the EU, taken in a large number of those relocated,” Forfang said. “That means their applications for asylum will be handled in Norway.” They’ll also be housed in Norway while their applications are processed, instead of in overcrowded camps where conditions are extremely difficult.
If those relocated are included in the total, Norway has logged a 40 percent increase in refugee arrivals. Many Norwegians think Norway should and could take in more refugees, to relieve the pressure on Italy and Greece.
Huge contrast to just two years ago
It’s all a huge contrast to the refugee influx that stunned Norway and much of Europe in 2015. By December of that year, 31,633 were registered at asylum centers in Norway, many of which had been hastily set up to handle the enormous number of migrants fleeing war and poverty in Syria, Afghanistan and several African countries. Of those who arrived in 2015, around half have been granted asylum and resettled in Norwegian communities, while 13 percent are still residing in asylum centers.
Forfang said the arrivals now are “historically low.” The number of asylum centers has also been slashed from 284 at the end of 2015 to 112 today. Fully 41 of those remaining will be closed by October.