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Norway to turn Afghans back at Russian border

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Norway to turn Afghans back at Russian border
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg (right) and Justice Minister Anders Anundsen at the start of Tuesday's meeting in parliament. Photo: Terje Pedersen /NTB scanpix
19:22 CET+01:00
Norway's government has announced plans for emergency legislation allowing it to turn away asylum seekers at its northern border if they have the right to reside in Russia.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced on Tuesday that her government intended to rush through the new bill, submitting it on Friday, and bringing it into force by the end of next week. 
 
“The current Immigration Act is not designed for the situation we are up against today,” she said at a press conference, according to state broadcaster NRK. “We want to bring in a system where we get legal authority to refuse to process applications from people who have resided in Russia, and return them rapidly.” 
 
The proposal comes on top of a 15-point programme to tighten immigration agreed between the Conservative and Progress parties last week. 
 
It has won the support of the Labour, Christian Democrat and Socialist Left Parties, all of which traditionally favour more welcoming asylum policies. 
 
“We understand that there is a need to make certain amendments to the Norwegian immigration legislation. And we are going to ensure that it is possible to handle this quickly,” Hadia Tajik, deputy leader of Norway's Labour Party, said. 
 
According to the VG newspaper, party leaders are to discuss the proposal on Thursday before taking a vote on Friday. The intention is for the law to come into effect as early as Friday November 20th.
 
“I have asked the parliamentary leaders to prepare for an extraordinarily rapid legislative process next week so we can get the bill processed quickly,” Solberg said. 
 
The emergency legislation comes as record numbers of refugees cross over into Norway at Storskog, its Arctic border with Russia – many of them Afghans with legal residence in Russia.
 
The Russian embassy in Oslo told Norway's NTB newswire that it would be violating international law if its border officials prevented people from Afghanistan, Syria and other countries from travelling to Norway. 
 
“Foreign citizens are free to choose which border station they wish to use in connection with the outward journey from the Russian Federation and what country they want to enter after this,” the statement read.
 
“Therefore, the Russian authorities have no grounds for preventing them from departing to other countries. Anything else, would be contrary to international law.” 
 
A record 1,113 asylum seekers crossed the Storskog border last week, bringing the total for this year to nearly 4,000. 
 
Moscow rejected the charge that it was in some way encouraging the Afghans to cross the border. 
 
“The refugees' choice of Norway has nothing to do with border guards applying a selective approach in their work, but is most likely justified by liberal legislation on immigration and attractive living conditions and social welfare for refugees in Norway.” 
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