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IMMIGRATION

Prime Minister rejects calls to bring deported Afghans back to Norway

Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Monday that the government would not be bringing deported Afghans back to Norway in light of the deteriorating situation in the country.

Prime Minister rejects calls to bring deported Afghans back to Norway
Solberg has rejected calls to return Afghans that have been deported to Norway. Photo by: Tobias Schwarz / AFP

On Monday, the Norwegian PM rejected calls from the leaders of the Socialist Left Party and the Red Party to bring Afghans who have been deported after their asylum applications were turned down back to Norway.

Both Socialist Left Party leader Audun Lysbakken and Red Party leader Bjørnar Moxnes told newspaper VG that they believed that those who were deported to Afghanistan after their asylum applications were rejected should be brought back to Norway after the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Monday.

Since 2015, Norway has deported 843 people to Afghanistan who had their applications for asylum in Norway rejected.

Solberg said on Monday that she doesn’t think it is relevant to help any of the rejected applicants to return to Norway as the authorities who processed their cases concluded that it was safe to return the asylum seekers to Afghanistan.

“Those who have been returned have no personal reason to be persecuted by the Taliban or by others,” Solberg added.

The prime minister said that international cooperation would be required to help those fearing their safety following the Taliban takeover.

Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre has echoed Solberg’s view and said there currently isn’t a need to bring those who have had their requests for asylum rejected back to Norway. However, he did add that the situation could change in the future, requiring a shift in stance.

“The Taliban’s take over does not automatically change that question. Instead, it must be assessed based on how the situation develops in the future,” Støre said.

In July, Norway paused all deportations to Afghanistan after the conflict between the Taliban and Afghan forces intensified.

READ MORE: Norway suspends deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan

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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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