Judges decide an Iranian family has to leave Norway and refuse entry for a Bosnian one following authorities’ rejection of their asylum applications.
The Supreme Court ruling follows both families’ appeals against the respective Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) final decisions.
Iranians the Shabazis and their nine-year-old child Mahdi have lived in Rjukan in Telemark County for seven years.
They asked judges to turn down the UNE’s decision based on that they fear persecution as Christians.
The second family from Bosnia also lived in Rjukan, for 11 years this time. The Delics and their now ten-year-old daughter Verona, who was born in Norway, were deported to Sarajevo in March. They also have another daughter, 10-month-old Aurora.
They lost their appeal for protection after the UNE turned them down and two rounds in court.
The case is the latest development involving child asylum seekers that have connections with Norway through either being born in or moving to this country following their parents’ decision to apply for protection.
Though involving two families for now, it has potentially wider implications for other asylum seeker parents and their children.
Unfair punitive repercussions
About 540 under-aged asylum seekers have been living in limbo at state private-run facilities in Norway for more than three years, Directorate of Immigration (UDI) figures show. Some go to school, speak Norwegian, and have Norwegian friends.
Heikki Holmås speech on Ethiopia visit
Trond Viken/MFAThe government has previously discounted an amnesty allowing them to stay after a certain number of years.
Opposition and tri-partite coalition politicians, including Socialist Left former policy spokesperson and now International Development Minister Heikki Holmås, have called for change.
Their concern includes children of Ethiopians, who now fall under the forced repatriation category following expiry of the period of grace for voluntary return. Officials’ move came after Norway and Ethiopia signed an agreement.
“Their [children’s] rights should be increased. Although the government says immigration law weighs heavier, it should be the attachment of the child to Norway that does instead,” Minister Holmås told The Foreigner in an interview in February this year.
Party Leader Audun Lysbakken expressed support for letting more children of asylum seekers who refuse to leave the country stay.
He argued their parents’ alleged “mistakes” (of choosing to apply in Norway) should not result in retribution.
In June, the government released its much-awaited asylum policy whitepaper ‘Barn på flukt’ (‘Children on the run’) looking at improving the situation to and handling of cases involving unaccompanied and parentally accompanied children coming to Norway.
Taral Jansen/ForsvaretNo legislative changes are listed, but the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) is asked to take more account of the best interests of the child when applications have been turned down.
“We must ensure the protection of the children who need it, while we pursue a policy that does not encourage anyone to embark on a journey to Europe with the risk it entails,” said Minister of Justice Grete Faremo at the time.
The intention is for the child’s best interests to be weighed up against considerations regarding immigration regulations.
UNE director Terje Sjeggestad declared he would not deliberately adhere to considering the children’s rights – something that Norway is bound to following ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991.
Rune Berglund Steen, author of publication ‘Svartebok over norsk asylpolitikk’ (’Black book about Norwegian asylum policy’) and communications manager at the Centre Against Racism, was highly critical of the government’s harsh asylum policy.
“The main hallmark of the present government is that for the first time, it has made children the main target of a brand of hard, experimental, and restrictive asylum policy,” he commented to The Foreigner.
Not a guarantee
Rune Berglund Steen
Finn Ståle Felberg/Forlaget Manifest“Examples include issuing unaccompanied children temporary residence permits only until they turn 18, when they are supposed to be deported to war-torn countries,” added Mr Steen.
In their ruling today, judges found the UNE had considered the children’s best interest in a proper manner. They argued this consideration did not have all-overruling powers.
They also concluded that that the UNE’s decision breached neither the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child nor the European Convention on Human Rights.
The 19 judges had spent a week considering the two cases and scrutinising Norway’s asylum seeker practices in general.
At the same time, both Mahdi Shabazi’s father, Hossein, and the Delic family have warned they will take the family’s case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
“I have no choice,” Mr Shabazi told Aftenposten following today's Supreme Court decision, “I just have to do it.”
Norway recently lost its deportation case against siblings Abbas and Fozi Butt in the same Court.