Norwegian Socialist Left Party (SV) politicians slam authorities’ attitude towards asylum seekers amongst several fatalities at Norway’s reception centers.
22 deaths were recorded at these facilities last year, with at least nine being reported as unnatural, reports NRK. Oddny Miljeteig, group leader for SV in Bergen – part of the tri-partite coalition – is contrite about the present government’s policies.
“In my opinion, Norwegian authorities assume that asylum seekers lie to come to Norway as a kind of Promised Land. It is an ugly and discriminating assumption which makes me ashamed of my country,” she said to The Foreigner.
Whilst asylum reception center resident numbers were 19,000 in 2009, they decreased to 15,000 last year. The nine fatalities in 2012 involved suicide homicide, and accidents, though the Directorate of Immigration (UDI) does not officially list the cause of death.
According to NRK, the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) has visited over 70 reception centers. General Secretary Ann-Magrit Austenå told the broadcaster they believe an increasing number of asylum seekers have suicidal thoughts.
What explains the rise in deaths?
“I am not qualified to answer that question, though I think the causes most likely are severe psychiatric/mental problems, feelings of hopelessness and insecurities about their futures and fear of being sent back to war and persecution,” answered Oddny Miljeteig.
“They fear for their lives, for their future, for their children’s future. They live through severe mental distress when they have to stay for a long time in these centers. Many of them have to live there for a long time with no certainty of their future, even after having been accepted/granted asylum,” she added, criticizing the scarcity of healthcare and treatment for psychiatric problems.
She also explains that believes that many have experienced their applications for asylum denied once or twice but still dare not go back to the country they fled from. Authorities’ seemingly superficial consideration of their applications is part of the picture too.
“It’s not racism, as maybe considered by few. It is a fact, however, that both Norwegian political Parties and authorities convey a strict and illiberal immigration, refugee and asylum policy. The policy is so strict and inhuman that even the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is overruled. Moreover, the UN has downgraded Norway when it comes to the practice of human rights,” said Ms Miljeteig.
What measures need to be taken to ensure that the death rates do not increase in 2013?
“Proper health treatment, more humane treatment towards asylum seekers overall, and a change in attitude from the authorities towards them. The authorities have to recognize the fear and reasons asylum seekers present them with.”
At the same time, the UDI has declared in cannot do anything more than it is doing already.
“I disagree. Much can be done in the terms of health treatment, for instance. And the asylum reception centers should not be commercial and based on profit, but public and non-commercial so that all money could be spent for the benefit of the asylum seekers,” the SV politician declared.
The UDI dealing with the situation more sensitively, including listing the causes of death, could change the situation for the better, believes Oddny Miljeteig.
“I think the UDI and Norwegian authorities really should face these deaths and their causes so that our policy could be changed into a policy to save the life and health of every asylum seeker. Nothing less should be our aim.”
What would you like to pass on to these asylum seekers?
“My message is mostly to Norwegian authorities, I think. Nonetheless, I want to encourage asylum seekers to seek help for problems in the centers, and speak out when they need help and assistance for physical or mental problems,” she concluded.