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Norway asylum agency posts marked drop in arrivals

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Norway asylum agency posts marked drop in arrivals
Asylum seekers at the Vestleiren centre in 2015. File photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix
16:25 CEST+02:00
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (Utlendingsdirektoratet, UDI) says it is downsizing operations after 2,380 asylum seekers came to the country in the first half of 2017 – the lowest number since the 1990s.

1,114 ordinary asylum seekers so far this year represents a decrease of almost a third from last year's figures.

But if relocated asylum seekers – mainly from Syria and Eritrea – are included, the figure changes to a 40 percent increase, reports Norwegian news agency NTB.

A total of 110 asylum seekers of minor age have arrived in the country so far in 2017, a 32.5 percent reduction on the equivalent figure from last year, according to the report.

The low numbers for both 2016 and 2017 have given UDI cause to adjust its prognosis for the rest of the year to a total of 3,000, in addition to 1,250 who will arrive through the EU's relocation arrangement with Norway.

This would mean a total far lower than the 10,000 expected at this time last year, reports NTB.

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

The primary reason for the drop is the reduced number of asylum seekers coming to Europe at all, says the report, with Italy the only exception, with a 19 percent increase before the peak summer period is taken into account.

Italy's figures are unlikely to have a significant effect on Norway.

“Many of the people who come from Libya to Italy come from countries in West Africa and Asia such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, and don't typically apply for asylum in Norway. Furthermore, many of them are not refugees,” UDI director Frode Forfang told NTB.

That situation could change should Italy receive more asylum seekers from Eritrea, Ethiopia or Sudan, who are more likely to look to Norway for asylum, according to NTB's report.

“The situation and prognosis for the rest of the year is quite uncertain. Normally more people come in the second half of the year than the first half, but last year did not see such an increase,” Forfang said.

UDI has now begun to adjust its capacity, with asylum facilities gradually being closed down in response to the new prognosis and lower asylum seeker arrivals.

READ ALSO: Number of asylum centres in Norway dropping as refugee flow slows to trickle

8,700 asylum seekers currently live in 112 centres around the country, with a further 41 expected to be closed during the autumn.

This will reduce capacity to 8,700 compared with 29,000 last year, reports NTB.

“This makes as vulnerable for changes in pattern. It has also created difficulties for operators and municipalities,” Forfang told the news agency.

The reduction in flow has enabled UDI to reduce numbers of pending applications from 14,000 to 3,000 over the last year.

Almost half of the 31,150 asylum seekers that came to Norway in 2015 have now had their applications processed, according to the report.

Of the refugees that entered the country via the Storskog border with Russia, 31 percent were granted asylum in Norway, according to the report.

Many of those whose applications were rejected were returned to Russia.

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