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Norway ministers advise against freeze on Afghan deportations

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Norway ministers advise against freeze on Afghan deportations
Minister for immigration Sylvi Listhaug (L) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide speak to media. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix
13:15 CET+01:00
Norway’s foreign minister Ine Eriksen Søreide and immigration minister Sylvi Listhaug have both spoken in parliament over calls to freeze returns of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Søreide has advised Norwegians against travelling to Afghanistan, but said the return of rejected asylum seekers was a separate issue.

Opposition parties have called Søreide and Minister of Migration and Integration Listhaug to an extraordinary discussion over the deportations, reports newspaper VG.

Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially advises against travel to Afghanistan, but the Directorate of Immigration (Utenriksdepartementet, UDI) does not currently define the war-torn central Asian country as too unsafe for asylum returns.

“We must face the fact that, in many countries, Norwegian travellers face many other threats than local citizens,” Søreide said in parliament according to VG’s report, citing kidnapping threats against Norwegians.

Listhaug said she “advised in the strongest possible terms” against the parliamentary backing for the proposal to freeze asylum seeker returns to Afghanistan, broadcaster NRK reported on Wednesday.

“It is important that decisions are understood on a factual basis, and I would advise in the strongest terms against parliament supporting the proposal to freeze all returns to Afghanistan. That could have unwanted consequences,” Listhaug said.

The minister said that changing current practice could result in an increased flow of asylum seekers from Afghanistan to the Norwegian country, reports NRK.

“There are very few areas in Afghanistan considered so unsafe that everyone who comes from there has the right to protection,” she said.

“Thorough assessments are made of each case. Afghans with the right to asylum are given it,” she added.

A total of 130 rejected asylum seekers – of which 128 are from Afghanistan – will reach the age of 18 during the autumn, VG reported in September.

Norway’s Socialist Left, Green and Red parties have called for the return of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan to be freezed until the security situation in the country becomes clearer.

The Socialist Left party has therefore tabled a proposal for an acute hold on all returns. A vote in parliament is expected next week, and would require the support of the larger opposition parties Labour and Centre in order to reach a majority.

Søreide made no secret of the fact that the security situation in Afghanistan has worsened in recent years.

“The armed conflict between the Afghan government and rebel groups continues unabated. Battles regularly occur in many of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and we have seen repeated terror attacks in both villages and towns. Both civil and military losses remain significant,” the minister said in parliament according to VG’s report. 

READ ALSO: Norway responds to Nato request for Afghanistan troops

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