New figures reveal how many Afghans have been evacuated to Norway

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) revealed Tuesday how many Afghans had been evacuated to Norway following the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan.

New figures reveal how many Afghans have been evacuated to Norway
Refugees disembark from a US air force aircraft after an evacuation flight from Kabul at the Rota naval base in Rota, southern Spain. Photo by Cristina Quicler/AFP

Norway has evacuated 860 Afghans after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and Western military personnel withdrew from the country. Among the evacuated Afghans are 72 human rights activists, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) has said. 

The immigration authority said in a statement released to the press that 676 Afghans have already been granted refugee status following input from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence.

More than 500 of those granted refugee status were associated with the Norwegian Armed Forces, 63 were locally employed by the Norwegian government and 28 were children without parents. 

Director of the UDI Frode Forfang said that, in principle, the parents of those children would also have the right to seek asylum in Norway under the right to family reunification. 

“If we manage to get the right documentation and establish the relationships, they will have the right to be reunited. There will be an individual assessment in each case,” Forfang said in a statement released to the press. 

The UDI said that 46 of those granted refugee status are yet to travel to Norway.

READ MORE: Norway says Afghanistan evacuations complete

The UDI said it would begin verifying the documentation and personal details of the Afghans evacuated to Norway. 

“In other situations, this would have happened before they were brought to Norway. We have not done that yet due to the urgency of the evacuation,” Forfang said. 

The refuges will be staying at the Oslofjord Convention Centre while they quarantine, and the process of verifying their identities takes place. 

Norway finished the process of evacuating civilians out of Afghanistan last Friday, and press agency NTB reported at the time that around 1,100 people were brought to Norway. On Monday, a final flight containing military personnel and staff at the field hospital in Kabul airport landed in Norway.

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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.