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Norway's Labour Party: Tough asylum rules must be kept

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Norway's Labour Party: Tough asylum rules must be kept
File photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix
13:07 CEST+02:00
A spokesperson for Norway's opposition Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) has said that it supports current restrictions on asylum for minors introduced by the government.

“We must stick to current law and rulings on temporary residence for underage asylum seekers,” Labour spokesperson on immigration Helga Pedersen said, reports broadcaster NRK.

“It is the need for protection that must determine whether someone stays in Norway,” Pedersen continued.

Asylum policies must remain “strong and fair,” said Pedersen, while adding that minors granted temporary residence in asylum centres should be treated on different terms to adults.

Temporary asylum was increasingly granted to minors in Norway last year, due in part to an October 2016 law change that enabled asylum applications to be rejected if individuals could be returned to safe parts of their home countries, as reported by newspaper VG in December 2016.

Afghan nationals were the group primarily affected by the measure.

Minors not fulfilling requirements for asylum due to safety concerns in their home countries can be given temporary residency - usually in asylum centres - if "strong humanitarian considerations" deem this necessary, according to the VG report.

Progress Party's acting minister for immigration Per Sandberg praised the Labour position.

“It is important here to stand by the rules we have and I am glad that Labour is firm on this,” he said.

Labour's annual party conference begins tomorrow, with immigration set to be one of the key points of discussion.

Pedersen's stance is likely to meet with some opposition within the ranks of her own party, reports NRK.

A number of elements of the party want to cut down on granting temporary asylum to minors, instead giving permanent residence.

“We know about children harming themselves in asylum centres in Norway, about suicide attempts and children fleeing [from the asylum centres] within Norway. So policies must be changed,” Roger Valhammer, leader of the Bergen branch of the party, told NRK.

READ ALSO: Norway asylum centres report increase in teen prostitution

Valhammer said that he expected overall support for a change in party policy at the conference.

Potential Labour support for a softening of asylum rules was a “concern”, Sandberg said.

“Starting to loosen up now, giving asylum where protection is not required, would be completely wrong,” he said.

The government will “soon” present new measures for improving conditions for temporary and other asylum seekers in Norway's asylum centres, the minister told NRK.

“It will involve schemes and activities, regardless of whether you have been granted temporary asylum. This means both competency training and counselling in the centres,” Sandberg said.

But children's social services representative Anne Lindboe said that patching activities in asylum seekers was not a sustainable solution.

Granting temporary asylum should be reduced due to the effects of a lack of permanency and stability on the well-being of young, unaccompanied asylum seekers, Lindboe told NRK.

“I would again like to remind that we are talking about 15, 16 and 17-year-olds here. They are young people like our young people, that are in need of care,” she said. 

READ ALSO: Asylum seeker arrivals in Norway 'lowest since 1997'

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