Long family reunification waiting times and barriers to taking work or starting an education are leading more and more asylum seekers to express an interest in leaving Norway.
“They thought that when they came to Norway they would get protection rather quickly. And that they would have the opportunity to work or take an education – and maybe even to get their family to Norway,” Katinka Hartmann, head of the The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration’s (Utlendingsdirektoratet - UDI) return unit, told broadcaster NRK.
But with family reunification application processing times taking years, many have decided that they don’t want to wait and have applied for financial assistance to return home.
According to UDI, over 900 people have applied to leave Norway with financial support from the state. A family with two children can receive upwards of 80,000 kroner ($9,300 or 8,600 euros) in addition to having their airline tickets bought by the state.
The number of applications is on the rise, according to the Norwegian division of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which processes the requests.
“Earlier this year, the number was an average of 100 per month. In October, there were 150 and in November there were 230 applications,” IOM spokesman Joost van der Aalst told NRK.
He said that the long family reunification times were a major factor, but many people were also put off by having to live in remote areas where they feel it is difficult to put their work experience to use.
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UDI’s Hartmann said that it could be necessary to reduce the amount of financial support offered to returning asylum seekers.
“It could be appropriate to cut funding for some groups and it could also be appropriate to temporarily offer more in support to other groups,” she said.
People whose asylum applications have been denied can also apply for economic assistance to return home.