Norway records lowest number of asylum seekers since 1995

Migrants in Norway. Picture: Getty Images/AFP/POPPE CORNELIUS

TMP – 14/01/2018

Norway’s state immigration agency UDI has released figures showing that only 3,546 asylum seekers arrived in the country in 2017. Of those, 1,252 were sent to Norway from refugee camps in Italy and Greece as part of Norway’s agreement to accept asylum seekers under the EU’s relocation programme.

UDI Director Frode Forfang highlighted that these figures mean less than 2,300 people actually made it to Norway on their own to seek asylum. This number is significantly less than the 31,000 who arrived during 2015, before Norway’s border to Russia was secured and before the EU closed its borders and blocked migration from Greece, Italy and the Balkans.

Forfang said that the UDI expects arrivals in 2018 to be even less, at around 3,000.
“The trend towards low arrival numbers has been strengthened,” Forfang said. “We’re now at a level that’s lower than it was in the years before 2015.”

As a result of the decrease in arrivals, UDI has been shutting down asylum centres across the country.
The conservative Progress Party’s minister Sylvi Listhaug has long advocated a restrictive immigration policy and “strict but fair” asylum guidelines.

“In addition to the border controls down in Europe, we have tightened immigration policy and been clear in our communication that you can’t remain in Norway if you don’t have a right to protection,” Listhaug told newspaper Dagsavisen.
While Norway’s conservative parties may be celebrating these figures, many Norwegians are critical of the country’s unwillingness to do more to help asylum seekers.

“We haven’t seen more people forced to flee since World War II,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council. He hopes for a turning point in 2018, and that solutions can be found for the world’s humanitarian crises.
Several opposition politicians in Parliament also voiced criticism. “There aren’t fewer people who need protection in the world,” said Karin Andersen, an MP for the Socialist Left party.

Andersen and several other MPs want Listhaug and the rest of the Norwegian government to take in more refugees already registered by the UN and living in refugee camps waiting for resettlement.

“Norway must do more to strengthen asylum rights internationally,” Andersen told Dagsavisen. “It’s in everyone’s best interests that the shared responsibility (for refugees) is more fair.”