Minister of Migration and Integration Sylvi Listhaug presented 40 new restrictions to the country’s immigration rules on Tuesday.
The planned changes are based on an agreement reached by parliament in November to reduce numbers of refugees reaching the Scandinavian nation. A total of 35,358 asylum seekers arrived in Norway in this year, compared with 11,480 in 2014.
A continued increase in asylum seekers could have “devastating consequences” for Norwegian society, according to Listhaug, who is a member of the anti-immigration Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet).
The proposals include tighter rules on family reunification and a minimum period of five years before permanent residence is granted, an increase from the previous three years. Underage asylum seekers under 18 will also have their cases reassessed when they turn 18, and the bar for refugees’ language and cultural understanding requirements will be set higher.
Police will deport rejected asylum seekers more quickly and the right to appeal will be restricted.
The Norwegian government has also announced that it wants to turn away refugees crossing the border from Sweden.
“This will provide motivation to make an effort to learn Norwegian and find work for those who want to be here,” said Listhaug at a press conference on Tuesday.
But the proposals have met with criticism from politicians from the government coalition’s supporting parties, who voted for the move towards stricter asylum rules in November.
“The aim of the asylum agreement was to prevent unjustified asylum seekers from straining the overloaded system, because that is bad for those who need protection. But Listhaug’s proposals are problematic and will leave men, women and children who have left their homes and have real need for protection without the help they need,” MP André Skjelstad of the Liberal (Venstre) party said to NRK.
“We support [efforts to stop unnecessary asylum], but there is a good deal missing and we are critical and have concerns about the integration aspect [of the proposal], Geir Sigbjørn Toskedal of the Christian People’s Party told NRK.
Skjelstad also raised concerns about the effects of the new measures on integration.
“Listhaug is not using the right methods. She ought to be making sure that we enable more people to be active earlier than we do currently, by allowing them to work with and without pay. We know that this works,” Skjelstad said.
The Norwegian Association for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) was strongly critical of the proposals, suggesting they may break international law.
“At worst, this is a break with international law and will force people to travel home and be subjected to the dangers that [international] resolutions are supposed to protect them from,” Senior Legal Adviser with NOAS, Andreas Furuseth, was quoted as saying by NRK.
The proposals will undergo a six-week “hearing” period, during which time they are available to the public, before being negotiated and finalized in parliament.