New voluntary or forced asylum seeker return deals between Norwegian and foreign authorities could hit many children and their families, reports say.
400 children with no right to reside in Norway have lived in limbo in asylum reception centres for three or more years. These children have no confirmed identity, they or their parents have been refused the right to live in Norway, but authorities cannot forcibly return them.
Bergens Tidende (BT) tells the story of six-year-old Nathan Eshete. His parents are from Ethiopia, but he is born and raised in Norway. The paper reports his language skills, football team, and food preferences are similar to those of an ethnic Norwegian.
Nathan’s father, Asfaw, has lived and worked in Norway for 10 years, but has now lost his work permit following the new Norway-Ethiopia deal. Eritrea is currently under discussion.
The Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) has issued a final refusal to their asylum application. Mr Eshete says he fears torture and jail in his country he was forced to leave because of his political activities.
“Not one minute goes by without me being scared. I lie awake at night”, he says, “I’ll do anything to protect Nathan, but I have to tell him the truth when he looks me in the eye asking why I don’t play with him or don’t laugh.”
Mother Zinash tells BT her son is frightened of police cars and will not sleep alone anymore. “It’s a terrible feeling knowing I cannot guarantee him a safe future,” she exclaims.
The Eshetes only have 150 kroner per day to exist on. Asfaw says, “Now we’re just sitting here doing nothing.”
Meanwhile, new immigration law changes come into effect today strengthening children’s right to express themselves on immigration matters.
A child can now request to talk to immigration authorities in cases where it is necessary to safeguard his/her rights to be heard under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This can be conducted with or without parents consent, but a representative must be present.
“These conversations can be necessary when assessing what the ‘child’s best’ is or whether he/she has an independent need for protection,” Minister of Justice Grete Faremo says in a press release.
Other legislation changes are substituting the word “race” with “ethnicity, descent and skin colour” to eliminate what she terms could be “burdensome or unfortunate associations”.
Moreover, providing humanitarian assistance to people residing illegally in Norway from authorities’ point of view is only considered a criminal offence in extremely exceptional cases.
According to the minister Faremo, this means providing a place to stay, food, or medical assistance to persons, such as in the case of humanitarian organisations, is not considered as contributing to illegal residence.
The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) says Norway currently has return agreements with 29 countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Burundi, Estonia, Georgia, Hong Kong, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, Tanzania, the Czech Republic, the Ukraine, and Vietnam.