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IMMIGRATION

Norway suspends deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan 

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and Immigration Appeal Board (UNE) said on Wednesday it would stop forced returns to Afghanistan due to the deteriorating security situation in the country.

Norway suspends deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan 
The UDI and UNE has suspended deportations to Afghanistan. Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

The UDI and UNE will not enforce any returns for individuals to Afghanistan due to the escalation of conflict between the Taliban and Afghan authorities, which the UDI said in a statement has led to a deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation. 

The withdrawal of foreign military forces from Afghanistan has led to intense fighting between the Taliban and government forces in the country. 

The deportations will be suspended until September 15th, 2021. 

This means those who have received a final decision on asylum claims or residence applications and have been told they will need to return to Afghanistan will not be obliged to do so until the suspension is lifted. 

The rules will apply to anyone who

  • Has had their application for asylum rejected
  • The decision has been made to deport them from Norway
  • Had had their residence permit revoked
  • Is living in Norway but have had their application for a residence permit rejected

The decision to postpone the deportations has been pushed back until September 15th because all foreign military and peacekeeping forces in Afghanistan will withdraw from the country by the end of August. 

READ ALSO: How did Covid-19 affect immigration in Norway in 2020?

This will give the UDI and UNE time to reassess the situation and whether the suspension should be extended further or lifted, the agencies said. 

People whose cases are covered by the Dublin III convention or the First Asylum Rule will not be covered by the suspension. This means they will be returned to the first European country in which they sought protection. 

The UNE said it did not have figures for the total number of Afghan citizens who are due to be returned to Afghanistan. 

The Police Immigration Unit has said it is aware of the new rules so that no people who fall under the suspension will be forcibly returned to the country. 

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POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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