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'She was scared I'd die': Woman faces deportation from Norway over mother's lie

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
'She was scared I'd die': Woman faces deportation from Norway over mother's lie
From the moment she came to Norway as an 13-year-old, Zarina Saidova, an Oslo-based illustrator, told people she was from Chechnya and not, as she really was from Kazakhstan. She now faced deportation for her mother's lie. Photo: Private

When illustrator Zarina Saidova arrived in Norway as a 13-year-old, her mother falsely claimed they were from Chechnya. After 19 years, she now faces deportation and a ban from returning to the country. 


"When I started to tell all of my closest friends this summer, I was really scared of how people would react and that I would maybe lose friends or something, but no one really cared," Saidova told The Local of her decision to come clean.

Unfortunately, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) did not see things the same way.

Because Saidova had herself, as an adult, continued the deception, it meted out the toughest measure available to it in April, not only stripping her of her residency permit and ordering her to leave Norway, but imposing a 5-year ban on entering the Schengen Area. 

"For five years, you're completely banished from the country and from the whole of the Schengen Area, and that's five years minimum: after five years I can apply for family reunification because my boyfriend is Norwegian, but it takes a long time to get a decision, so it could be seven years." 

The devastating verdict came as a surprise. 

"When I got the letter, I was so emotional because our lawyer had said that people who came here as children most often did not get punished for what their parents had said or done," she said. "He said I would probably get a new residency permit. I knew that this could happen, but I was still really surprised when it did and I got really, really sad." 

According to Saidova, her mother decided to travel by train through Germany and Denmark to get to Norway because life was so harsh in Pavlodar, an industrial city on Kazakhstan's Russian border, that she could not afford food for her daughter, particularly as her former husband was not providing any support.  

"When we came to Norway, I was really sick and she was really scared I might die. I was really, really skinny, and if I got just a little cold, I could be sick for a months. Just a usual poor kid story. Not having enough vitamins." 


An uncle had advised them to tell the Norwegian authorities that they came from Chechnya, then in the middle of the brutal Second Chechen War, and that's exactly what Saidova's mother did, with the 13-year-old having to join in with the lie from the first day of her arrival in the country.  

"It has felt like having some kind of secret disease. It's very weird to start a friendship telling people that you're born in another country," she remembers. 

The pair moved to Leirfjord, one of the more southerly municipalities in Nordland, and immediately began to thrive, with Saidova learning to speak fluent Norwegian with a perfect Nordland dialect within six months and getting top marks in Norwegian by the time she finished secondary school.  

Her mother, meanwhile, started working as a nursing assistant at an elderly care home and trained on the side to become a qualified nurse, and now works at a dementia village in Bærum. 

Saidova studied art, first in Trondheim and then at the Oslo Academy of Arts, since then she has worked as an illustrator, delivering work to some of Norway's biggest companies. 


She has been with her boyfriend, Joakim Husmo, for 12 years, and he was the first person outside her family she told her secret to. She told him three months into the relationship. She says she feels completely Norwegian, despite not having citizenship or a passport. 

"Sometimes I feel more Norwegian than my boyfriend. And I'm not looking down upon my own heritage. I speak Russian every day with my mum and with my brother, who lives in Kazakhstan. But when it comes to my own identity, I'm very European and very Norwegian." 

Since getting her decision from the immigration directorate, Saidova has decided to publicise her case as much as possible, fighting to stay in the country that has become her home. 

Oslo mayor Marianne Borgen has taken up her case, urging the immigration authorities to review their decision.

The immigration directorate rejected her appeal in June, and her second appeal is currently being considered by the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE), which is likely to rule in the first half of next year. 

"I've got such a good response from politicians, and I don't want to be one of those sad cases. I've really gone into this to fight for my own rights, because it's impossible that people who came here as children are not allowed to talk to the UDI or UNE, and just get a rejection in an email," she said. 


Saidova said she had hoped that she would be joined in her campaign by other people whose parents had also given false information when they claimed asylum, but for understandable reasons, no one has so far come forward.  

"It would be amazing to collaborate and talk with others who are in the same situation, because right now I feel kind of alone, like I'm the only person in the whole of Norway who is struggling with this. But I know this is not the case." 

Even if her boyfriend joined her in Kazakhstan, he would have to return to Norway for the three years to qualify for a family reunion, so the decision, if upheld, means a long separation.

Under the law, she says, the immigration authorities have 'skjønnsrom', or discretion, in cases like hers, which mean that the law does not compel them to deport the children of adults who have provided false immigration. 


She argues that it is not reasonable for the immigration directorate to expect her to have come clean when she turned 18, as it would have been tantamount to turning her own mother into the authorities, after which she would have been deported. 

As it is, her mother has been ordered to leave Norway and given a lifetime ban from the Schengen Area only four years before she was due to retire, risking losing the pension she has built up over her 19-year nursing career. 

"It's so harsh, sending off an old lady back to a poor country. If she gets her pension, I will feel less worried about her from my own side, but she's a really strong and tough lady thinking positively about her own life. She only thinks about me -- like, 'oh no, you're being sent out for five years. What will you do?'". 

She says her mother has mixed feelings about her original decision to claim to be from Chechnya. 

"She regrets putting me in this position and leaving me living in this limbo. But at the same time, she's so happy because I have found my boyfriend, and I live from my work as an illustrator and have accomplished all my dreams. So she's really happy for that, that she gave me that opportunity." 

Have you had a bad experience with Norway's immigration services that you'd like to share with our readers. Email [email protected]


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