31,145 people applied for asylum in Norway last year, nearly 20,000 more than in 2014. This year, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) thinks the number will reach 50,000 to 60,000.
More than half of last year's asylum applications came in October and November, UDI head Frode Forfang said.
“That sums up some of our challenges. The wave we had in the autumn was extremely high,” he said.
Forfang also mentioned the challenge of dealing with the many unaccompanied minor asylum seekers, who accounted for around one sixth of all applicants in 2015.
“Growth there was stronger than the overall growth,” he said.
Most asylum seekers in 2015 came from Syria, with the 10,536 applicants constituted more than a four-fold increase over 2014. Next came people from Afghanistan (6,987), Iraq (2,991), Eritrea (2,947) and Iran (1,342).
For Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, the number of applicants increased by ten to 15 times from 2014 levels.
UDI has previously estimated that as many as 100,000 asylum seekers might come to Norway in 2016. This figure has now been revised downward, with UDI expecting anywhere between 10,000 and 60,000 asylum seekers. Forfang emphasized that there is considerable uncertainty in the calculations.
Some 24,000 people are currently waiting to have their asylum applications processed.
“This is a very large number. Our capacity is nowhere near what is needed,” the UDI head said.
Over the coming months, the agency will add around 200 new caseworkers but even with that Forfang said that UDI would be understaffed.