Norwegian immigration agency UDI is preparing for a new wave of asylum seekers from Afghanistan, after the US and NATO pulled out of the war-torn country. Many feel Norway, which took part in NATO’s unsuccessful efforts to stabilize Afghanistan over the past 20 years, has an obligation to take in Afghan refugees.
The Islamic terrorist group Taliban has already seized power in many parts of the country as battles rage among the Taliban, the even more brutal Islamic terror organization IS and Afghan forces. The Taliban is now poised to seize power in Afghanistan, most recently, reported newspaper Aftenposten, through goal-oriented murders of civilian activists, government employees and journalists.
More than 9,000 Norwegians served in the NATO- and US-led military operations in Afghanistan. Many Afghan civilians served as interpreters and helped the Norwegian troops in various other ways over the years. Now both they and their families are viewed as prime targets of the Taliban, which views them as traitors and infidels.
They don’t want to be left behind after the Norwegians went home. Among them is one young man who served as a combat interpreter and linguist for Norwegian Task Forces from 2012 to 2014. He’s among those whose application to UDI was rejected with, according to him, no explanation. His attempts at further contact with UDI failed and now he’s seeking “help in this matter to save my life.” Both he and his family, he claims, are in extreme danger from Taliban jihadists.
‘Have the right of protection
“I just tried to help (Norwegian) forces during the mission, I have provided loyal service to them, I put my life in danger to support them,” he wrote in an email to newsinenglish.no. “As a human being I have the right of protection. I know people who just worked for three months (for Norwegian officials) and received asylum, but a person like me who worked for Norway for more than two years was rejected for unknown reasons.”
As the country descends once again into civil war, only 47 Afghans employed locally by Norwegian troops and their families have most recently been granted residence permission in Norway, reports Aftenposten. That’s in addition to around 22 who received asylum in Norway in 2012-2013 and 63 who won asylum along with their families in 2015, in line with instructions from NATO to take care of the interpreters.
The Norwegian government extended the instructions in June to apply to all those locally employed by both the military and Norway’s embassy in Kabul. Strict requirements apply, however, that must be met by each individual and that’s why those accepted so far amount to less than 50. Most need to have been directly affected by the most recent and final pull-out, and must provide documentation of job contracts with either the military or the embassy. Those who worked for NATO or Norwegian officials earlier risk being overlooked.
The 47 who were approved arrived in Norway with their families in June and now UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) is preparing for more. More than 250,000 Afghans have already had to flee their homes after the Taliban launched a major offensive.
After a lengthy period with very few refugees arriving in Norway, UDI now thinks thousands more will arrive. “It’s possible that anywhere from 800 to 2,500 asylum seekers will come to Norway in 2021,” Knut Henrik Berntsen of UDI told state broadcaster UDI on Monday. In 2022, he said, anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 may arrive, “but it’s difficult to predict because refugees seldom travel directly to Norway.”
The refugee influx of 2015 ended with more than 30,000 refugees arriving in Norway before borders closed in Southern Europe. Norway quickly built up asylum centers to house them pending processing of their asylum application but much of that has been dismantled since. “At the end of 2015 we had more than 30,000 beds available,” Berntsen told NRK. “Today we need around 1,600. That says something about the enormous span we’re talking about.”
Any outlook for peace in Afghanistan, meanwhile, has shattered, according to Kristian Berg Harpviken of the Peach Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). He told newspaper Dagavisen recently that most all efforts to repel the Taliban and other Islamic extremist organizations have failed.
“Most bordering countries are preparing for anything but a stable and democratic Afghanistan, they’re more concerned about their own interests,” said Harpviken, who thinks Norway must take its share of responsibility for the failed military operations. “It’s terribly difficult to separate Norway from the overall international situation.”
Norway did have some success with its mentoring programs, both in trying to secure Kabul and in training Afghan forces since 2007. Only a Norwegian field hospital and embassy staff remain in the country. Now Norwegian officials will be under pressure to take in more Afghan refugees as keen to leave the country as departing troops.