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Norway opposition torpedoes plan to decriminalise drug use

Norway's main opposition Labour Party on Friday rejected a government plan to decriminalise the personal use of drugs in small quantities, saying the measure could incite young people to experiment with narcotics.

Norway opposition torpedoes plan to decriminalise drug use
A file photo of a marijuana plant. Photo: AFP

Under the centre-right coalition government’s proposal submitted in February, both the possession and use of small quantities of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, would no longer have been punishable under the criminal code, but users would still have had to seek help.

The ruling party however needed backing from the opposition in parliament in order for the bill to be approved.

Although the Labour Party is in principal in favour of doing away with penalties for heavy drug users, it is against decriminalising drug use for the wider population.

Proponents of the bill argued that criminal prosecution of drug users can be counterproductive as it deters those with abuse problems from seeking help, makes it more difficult for relatives to detect problems and stigmatises an already vulnerable demographic.

Although the bill was rejected on Friday, negotiations could still lead to a different text decriminalising heavy drug use being adopted.

Despite having one of the highest living standards in Europe, Norway – and other Nordic countries – have seen higher numbers of drug-related deaths per capita than the rest of Europe.

In recent years, 260 people have died annually from a drug overdose in Norway, according to a report published last year by the Norwegian Directorate of Health.

READ MORE: Norway seeks to decriminalise recreational drug use

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POLITICS

Could Norway see an influx of Russians at its shared border?  

Finland has said it has seen a surge in people at its border after Moscow's military call-up announcement. So, what is the situation like at Norway's shared border with Russia? 

Could Norway see an influx of Russians at its shared border?  

Last week, Russia announced that it would draft new conscriptions as part of a further mobilisation in Ukraine. 

This has led to an exodus of Russian citizens trying to leave the country and avoid being drafted into the military. 

Finland said on Monday that more Russians entered the country over the weekend than in any other this year so far after Moscow’s military call-up announcement caused a surge in arrivals.

“Last weekend was the busiest weekend of the year for traffic on the eastern border,” Mert Sasioglu of the Finnish border guard told AFP.

The border agency said nearly 8,600 Russians entered Finland via the land border on Saturday, and nearly 4,200 crossed the other way.

Neighbouring Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but is in the Schengen area, also reported a slight increase in crossings from Russia at its Storskog border crossing in the far north.

On Sunday, 243 people entered Norway from Russia, of which 167 had Schengen visas, while 91 left for Russia, according to Norwegian police. The police also stressed that these figures are still lower than the number seen before Covid, but said they expect a possible further increase this week.

Earlier this year, there were media reports that Russians were using Storskog to try and circumnavigate a European-wide flight ban

And last week, A visa agreement for travel between Norway and Russia was suspended. The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) writes that the typical rules for applying for a visa to enter Norway will now apply to Russian citizens.

New visa rules mean that the documentation required to apply will be tightened, multiple-entry visas won’t be issued as part of one application, processing times will go up, and fees will also increase.  

READ MORE: Norway suspends visa agreement with Russia

Norwegian newspaper VG reports that this is among a string of measures the UDI has taken to tighten the rules for obtaining a visa as a Russian citizen. 

Norway’s immigration directorate told VG that tourist visas and those to visit friends would be rejected in most cases. Visa applications are being rejected as there are doubts over whether the applicant would return to Russia upon the visa’s expiration. 

Additionally, Russian citizens were moved to the orange visa group. 

“In the orange group, parents, children, and spouses will generally receive visas, while it is more natural to refuse applications for siblings, distant relatives and boyfriends. It will also be more difficult, but not impossible, to get a visa for business trips and visits with a cultural purpose,” Håvard Sætre from the UDI told the Norwegian newspaper VG

Russians are still able to apply for asylum in Norway. However, to apply, they will need to physically reach Norway first. In 2022, 219 Russian citizens have applied for asylum in Norway. 

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