Norway has signed an agreement with Ethiopia enabling nationals to return home, officials say.
The new deal means will enable around 400 paperless Ethiopians living in Norway illegally from authorities’ point of view to go back. Deputy Minister of Justice Pål K. Lønseth encourages them to return to Ethiopia voluntarily, giving them 40,000 kroner.
“We will not be using the option of forcible returns before the 15th March, meaning they have the opportunity to apply for a voluntary one so they can return to Ethiopia under general conditions,” he tells NRK.
According to him, 15,000 kroner is “if they choose to reintegrate themselves in Ethiopia”, the rest is financial support towards measures after their arrival.
Approximately 100 Ethiopians went on hunger strike last February, locking themselves inside Oslo Cathedral, in protest against their treatment by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).
Those demonstrating at the time felt their lives were in danger because of Ethiopia’s political situation. The hunger strike lasted a week and the protesters gathered support from people in Oslo and Stavanger.
Calling the new agreement following 20 years of negotiation “good for Norway”, Deputy Minister Lønseth is now hoping deals can be made with other countries, and that “police and immigration authorities use it effectively.”
However, watchdog the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) personnel express concern about how the government has handled matter, particularly regarding children.
Secretary General Ann-Margrit Austenå says, “A number of Ethiopian children have lived in Norway for quite some time, and we believe their situation must be addressed. The government must postpone cases and make a new assessment if it is serious about their best interests.”
“I fear we will see some incidents of imprisonments [when Ethiopians have returned], and at the very worst torture, as well as destruction of individuals and families. Ethiopia’s regime is extremely authoritarian, with human rights violations having got worse over the past year. Many of them have been engaged in political opposition whilst living in Norway, and it will have consequences for some,” she concludes.
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