A teenager who’s spent most of his life in Norway was in court this week, fighting for the right to remain in the country where he’s grown up since the age of six. Immigration officials, meanwhile, are trying to deport him on the grounds his mother won asylum for her family 13 years ago on faulty grounds.
Known as the “Mustafa case,” after the now 19-year-old Mustafa Hasan, it illustrates just how strict and even arbitrary Norwegian immigration policy can be. The family was initially granted residence permission after arriving in 2008 but it was withdrawn several years later when immigration authorities determined they had come from Jordan and not from Palestinian territory as Hasan’s mother had claimed.
Now the family has been torn apart after two older brothers were forcibly returned to Jordan three years ago. Their mother fled to Germany, later back to Jordan, with her youngest daughter in 2017 under fear of deportation, leaving Mustafa and another older brother, Abdel, in the care of child protection authorities Norway. Both were well integrated and in school in Asker, where they’ve had lots of support from the local community in which they grew up. A rally in support of Mustafa was held in front of Parliament just before his court case began.
While Abdel applied for and received residence permission when he turned 18, Mustafa was turned down when he turned 18 last year. He was allowed to stay only through the school year, to graduate from high school, but faced a deportation date in early July as his case went to court.
“Mustafa has never done anything wrong, yet he’s being punished for a mistake made by others than himself,” wrote two of his supporters in a commentary in newspaper Aftenposten this week. Veteran Norwegian diplomat and former UN special envoy Kai Eide, who spoke at the rally, calls the Mustafa case “not only unreasonable but completely absurd.” Eide claims it violates the European human rights convention that children should not be punished for mistakes made by their parents and that courts should rule in favour of what’s in the best interests of the child.
Pål Nesse, secretary general of the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) claims Norwegian authorities have erred in how they’ve evaluated and carried out regulatory framework, and that residence based on humanitarian factors is warranted. “There’s no shame in changing course after such a mistaken evaluation,” Nesse wrote in an appeal for Hasan, “but it’s a shame not to.”
Immigration board UNE was reluctant to comment before the case began but countered that no one should benefit from incorrect information or false documentation. Now it’s up to the Oslo County Court to decide the fate of the young man whose friends and network are in Norway, and who hasn’t been in the Middle East since he was six.