HRHN: In Norway, one ”illegal” immigrant’s case stand for thousands

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: Here is a touching story published on Human Rights House Norway (HRHN) about a Russian from the troubled Caucasus who, after being refused asylum Finland and then in Norway, became an illegal alien with her parents from the age of 12. She is now 26.  After publishing a book about her life, she was arrested and detained.

Her detention and outraged some Norwegians and has sparked protests over her possible deportation.

What does her plight say about the thousands of illegal aliens in Norway?

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“A police crackdown on a lone woman in the shelter of the dark: Is this the kind of Norway that we want?” asks Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

Asylum rejected

Maria Amelie, left, was taken on the run from the Caucasus by her parents when she was 12 years old. After having been refused asylum in Finland, they fled to Norway and sought asylum here when Amelie was 16 years. After the rejection from the Norwegian authorities the parents decided to stay paperless.

On 12 January Amelie was arrested by eight plainclothes police officers outside the Nansen Academy for violation of the Norwegian Immigration Act. Now she stands in danger of being forced to return to Russia.

“Maria Amelie has never been given an opportunity to explain herself in her case before the Norwegian immigration authorities, something we find tp be in violation of her human rights,” said Engesland. –Not as a child when she was rejected by her parents’ case, and not now, when as an adult she has asked for a reconsideration of her case. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says “Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution”.

Engesland says it is difficult to see how a child who was taken to Norway by its parents may be held liable for violations of the immigration law on an equal footing with adults.

According to Secretary of State Pål Lønseth, a new negative decision was made by the Immigration Appeals Board on 12 January. Maria Amelie was arrested without either having been offered an interview or be notified of the decision. Police Immigration Service would not provide information about the arrest of Maria Amelie lawyer.

Maria is not illegal

Amnesty International Norway demands Maria’s release and that Norwegian authorities consider her case on the basis that the offense she committed was not her own adult choice and that she has a strong connection to Norway.

Against all odds, Maria has gone through higher education in Norway, and made an extraordinary effort to become a part of Norwegian community. Maria has also chosen to give the so-called illegal a face through her book and various appearances in the public sphere in Norway.

Amnesty International Norway believes the government should give her credit for this. Instead, her courage and work for others, perhaps several thousand people, who live like her to be visible and taken seriously resulted in a frightening arrest and confinement.

In Norwegian Helsinki Committee’s opinion, as a 25-year old, Maria has contributed more to the Norwegian public debate than most Norwegian will make in the course of a life.

She has been open and readily available to meet the Norwegian immigration authorities, if they had wanted it. Instead, the Minsitry of Justice decided that the police should take action in a way that brings the thoughts to societies where protection of the rights of the individual is a lot weaker than in Norway.

Deportation
“We are also concerned about Maria’s dispatch to Russia now. It is very difficult for a person from the Caucasus, who was small and without registering when leaving the country, to have valid papers for settlement in Russia,” said Engesland.

From a political and moral point of view, the arrest of Maria Amelie is a reprehensible act. She traveled from Russia to Finland when she was 12 years old, because her parents took her with them. During the last eight years she has been in Norway, she has in every way tried to live as an upstanding citizen – except the fact that she has lived in Norway without a legal residence.

-Responsible politicians in the Parliament should make it crystal clear that this is unnecessary use of force and an unacceptable practice towards peaceful, accessible and cooperative people,” said secretary general John Peder Egenæs and continues:

– Secretary of State Pål Lønseth has stated that it is not that important to discuss what we in Norway do with the so-called illegal people living here. The reason for this is that there is no crisis in the system. Norway has neither the immigration crisis in the administration or in the black labour market, so the government could also provide safe care of the people concerned.

New rules needed
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee says it’s time to get a new set of rules that provides long stay undocumented, especially for those who come to Norway as children and become established in the country, and take into account the amount of time a person has been in the country illegally.

According to the Amnesty International Norway, there must be an upper limit on how long children can live in Norway categorised as illegal before they are automatically granted legal residence.

– We believe that Amelie meets this requirement even though some of her childhood on the run was spent in Finland. She grew up in Norway, partly in childhood and partly in adulthood. She must stay here,” said Irene Khan.

Protests
A court in Oslo went along late 13 January afternoon with a request by the police agency charged with enforcing immigration law that Amelie be held in custody until she can be sent back to Russia. Amelie is now being held in an asylum center near Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen after her arrest on 12 January.

Her detention unleashed massive protests, Amnesty International Norway, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and other human rightrs organisations, from politicians for a wide range of parties, and from thousands of ordinary citizens including those who marched on the state government complex in Oslo.

On 13 January evening the protesters demanded her release and permission for her to remain in Norway.

Campaign
Amnesty International is one of several organizations participating in the campaign “No one is illegal”.

The Norway based, ‘No One Is Illegal’ campaign, launched by a wide partnership of human rights groups inside the country, is driving actions now to help undocumented immigrant women and their children find asylum.

According to ‘No One Is Illegal’ some undocumented immigrants have lived as long as 17 years in Norway without access to basic rights, as they are often subjected to suffering and exploitation.

The campaign aims to establish a legal limit on the number of years a person can be classified as ‘illegal’ in Norway. Along with this, the campaign is working to help secure an automatic permit allowance for children and their families who have lived in Norway for a minimum of four years. Director Kari Helene Partapuoli, of The Norwegian Center against Racism and Discrimination, believes this legislation is achievable.

In 2008, the data research group Statistics Norway (SSB), estimated that 18,136 out of Norway’s almost five million inhabitants are undocumented immigrants. Although the exact number is not available, many undocumented immigrants are women. 1,344 of undocumented immigrants in 2008 were children.

Find out more about Maria’s case and other “illegal Norwegians” here.

If you want to visit Maria Amelie’s blog (in Norwegian) click here.

  1. Norway

    The largest political party in Norway is the Labour Party who before the last election tightened Norway’s asylum laws to stop losing power to the anti immigration Progress Party.
    When the parties of the far right are that close to taking power the ruling party are stuck between keeping power or the moral issue to uphold international human rights laws.

    One parallel is Finland six months ago it looked like Keskusta would come third in a election behind and SDP and Kokoomus the question was could the true Finns take forth from the Greens and how by many seats.
    A few months ago Keskusta supported the bail out of Ireland now we are asking the question could True Finns steal third from Keskusta.
    Human rights groups and the EU are to the ruling party a tricky subject to deal with as there is the fear to go against them but by following their line you could put yourself out of power .
    With the influence of the far right within the Norwegian parliament and government this situation will be a blueprint not for just for Norway but for other countries who also find themselves in a same situation

    • Enrique

      Hi Norway and welcome to Migrant Tales. Yes, it is an interesting political situation. However, what is the solution that these far-right parties, who can only win elections by fear-mongering? To dig a hole and stay entrenched from the outside world? One of the saddest matters about the rise of these kind of parties in Denmark and Norway is that they are countries that have had a comprehensive social welfare system based on social equality. Is this how people brought up in such a system react? It means that much of the teachings have gone down the drain.

  2. JusticeDemon

    I suppose we can fairly well assume that the Dublin Regulation will not apply to a case originating in 1997, although this aspect is worth verifying.

    Another question is whether Russia will even acknowledge any obligation to take this person back. In more than a few cases the Russian Federation has simply denied that such individuals are Russian citizens. Again, this is a complex issue.

  3. Jonas

    It’s so sad to see the mainstream parties in first Denmark – and now in Norway and Finland – move towards the populist anti-immigration movements rather than to clearly state why they are wrong and campaign against them. Mainstream parties such as Labour in Norway, Venstre in Danmark and the Centre party in Finland have both embraced elements of hardline rhetoric for electoral purposes. Sweden gives an example of a more progressive approach, but perhaps that is only because their anti-immigrant right wing movement (Sverigedemokraterna) is so indefensibly beyond the pale with its very clear basis in neo-Nazi associations and openly racist groups (such as Bevara Sverige svenskt). Unfortunately, the populists in DK, NO, and even the True Finns in FIN have managed to paint an air of misplaced respectability upon their movements. Perhaps it is a shame that the True Finns are in fact not more explicit in their intolerance so that they too would be untouchable and the other parties would utterly reject their politics.

    • Enrique

      Hi Jonas, great to hear from you as always. There is a saying in Argentina that nothing bad can last for a 100 years. I guess it comes from the fact that humans don’t normally live that long and therefore, when they die, matters change.

      What you mentioned about DK, NO and FIN and what must be taken into consideration is that these are small countries when compared to Sweden, which has a history of a big power in the region. Sweden, therefore, has a different take of the world than, say, Denmark.

      If our educational system is one of the finest in the world and if our social welfare system permits us to live a semi-dignified life if we become unemployed, then it is logical that enough people have learned that populism and racism is not the way to go. What is sad is that those that are xenophobic will end up impoverishing our countries. I always see semi-empty villages in easter Finland inhabited mostly by pensioners when I think of the True Finns and other anti-immigration groups and individuals in this country. Fortunately there are enough of us to show that theirs is a perilous path to take.

      We also have the Finnish-Swedish community to show that people of different linguistic origin can live and reap benefits.

      It only takes one even to shock the people of this country like some mad guntoting neo-Nazi to send these parties back to where they came from and implode. Hopefully this will not happe for the sake of the victims.

  4. Tiwaz

    -“If our educational system is one of the finest in the world and if our social welfare system permits us to live a semi-dignified life if we become unemployed, then it is logical that enough people have learned that populism and racism is not the way to go. What is sad is that those that are xenophobic will end up impoverishing our countries. I always see semi-empty villages in easter Finland inhabited mostly by pensioners when I think of the True Finns and other anti-immigration groups and individuals in this country. Fortunately there are enough of us to show that theirs is a perilous path to take.”

    And filling those villages with people who do not speak Finnish, or zero useful skills to offer for employers (who are not present in those villages) would change this how?

    Except by providing thousands of mouths for us working Finns to feed.

    It is the uncontrolled immigration which embraces unintegrating and unskilled immigrants which is perilous. I truly hope that coming elections will show to politicians that Finns have had enough of being milking cows for such folk.

    -“We also have the Finnish-Swedish community to show that people of different linguistic origin can live and reap benefits. ”

    By adjusting to community. Finnish-Swedish community has long ago adjusted to Finnish language and culture. Few of them are unable to speak Finnish, and those who do are stuck in small isolated pockets which are steadily dying away.

    Finnish-Swedish community proves that multiculturalism is failure, but integration into Finnish culture is route to success. Same as jews, tatars and sami.

    Each have adjusted their society to fit Finnish cultural framework, and each reaps the benefits.

    -“Hopefully this will not happe for the sake of the victims”

    Then hope that multiculturalism is abandoned and principle of “In Rome, do as Romans do”-prevails.

    Because where multiculturalism goes, violence follows.

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