Norway to return young Afghan asylum seekers

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Photo: FameFotografene. Janne Oline Rannes.
09:49 CET+01:00
Norway and other Northern European countries have begun negotiations aimed at returning teenage Afghan asylum seekers to their home country.

Just “a few details” and “approval” from authorities in Kabul appear to remain, news agency NTP reported Justice Minister Pål Lønseth saying. The discussion appears to have gone on for many months.

Sweden has led the talks embarked on by Britain, Denmark, Norway and The Netherlands. The stated aim is to send back kids whose application for asylum has failed because they have not demonstrated a need for “protection” against being sent back to war-torn Afghanistan.

New asylum centres in their home country would attempt to provide care, schooling and skills training, the state secretary said. It’s unclear whether the same western countries would have a say in the running and funding of the new centres.

The proposed move already has critics among organizations familiar with the reality of life for the youngsters if sent back. Among the plan’s critics is the Norwegian branch of non-governmental Save the Children, or Redd Barna.

“It seems odd to send kids and teenagers to a country which is so unstable,” Janne Oline Raanes of Redd Barna told The Local. She warns that children will likely spend little time in the planned “reception centres” before applying for asylum again.

“Norway isn’t taking responsibility for children on the run with this plan, and they’re operating in contravention of the United Nations’ recommendations,” Raanes said.

The Justice Ministry maintains each refugee’s security situation was being individually evaluated and none would be returned if it wasn’t deemed safe.

“It is not the case that refugee claimants can’t be returned to a place just because it isn’t as safe as Norway,” Lønseth said.

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Young Afghan men and teenagers make up around half of the 717 juvenile asylum applications the Norwegian Foreign Ministry has received so far this year.

The ministry says it has always maintained that its policy has been to secure the safety of refugees as close to conflict areas as possible.

“Where this is not possible, Norway will contribute by taking in refugees and giving them residency protection here in this country,” the department’s website says.

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