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Norway to deport asylum seeker 19 years after he first arrived

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Norway to deport asylum seeker 19 years after he first arrived
A man who had his initial asylum application in Norway over missing details faces deportation after confirming his details. Pictured is a Norwegian flag amid flowers. Photo by Peter Hansen on Unsplash

Norwegian authorities are to deport an asylum seeker who has lived and worked in the country for 19 years after he finally confirmed his identity and country of origin.

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Suel Kassembo, 35, from Burundi, faces deportation from Norway, and has lodged an appeal that will be heard by the Oslo District Court on November 23rd. 

The authorities decided to deport him after he clarified his identity years after his initial asylum application was denied. The application had been rejected as authorities were unable to verify his details at the time.

Kassembo claimed he travelled to Norway aged 16 as a stowaway aboard a ship after his family were killed in an attack on his childhood home during the civil war in Burundi in 2004.

At the time of his initial asylum application, most applications from those fleeing Burundi were granted due to the “general unsafe security situation” in the country.

The authorities doubted whether Kassembo came from Burundi as he spoke Swahili and not Kirundi, which is the dominant language in Burundi.

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) also believed he was three years older than he claimed to be.

“I come from the district of Buyenzi in what was then the capital of Burundi, Bujumbura. A small minority there speak Swahili and are Muslims like myself,” he told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

His application was eventually rejected around 2006, but he wasn’t deported because there was no documentation proving where Kassembo had arrived from. This meant there wasn’t a country the authorities could send him back to meaning he was "unreturnable".

During this period he didn't receive a temporary residence permit to live in Norway either.

“He has lived in Norway for 19 years as de facto and legally non-returnable. At the same time, the immigration authorities have not been able to grant him a legal residence permit,” said Kassembo's solicitor, Malene Valkwæ Jenssen.

Despite not holding a residence permit, Kassembo has managed to hold some full-time jobs and has also undertaken volunteering work.

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Earlier this year, Kassembo obtained official documentation from Burundi’s embassy in Berlin that proved his age and nationality – two factors that led to his initial asylum application being rejected.

However, after the files were submitted to Norway’s immigration authorities, he was arrested by police and sent to an immigration centre to be deported back to Burundi.

The documentation that proved he did initially originate from Burundi was key to the decision as it meant the Norwegian Immigration Directorate (UDI) had a country to deport Kassembo to.

Norway’s immigration authorities said that Kassembo had stayed in Norway illegally for 16 years and he no longer needed protection.

“He does not have a well-founded fear of persecution upon returning to Burundi,” The Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) told Oslo District Court.

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