The number of asylum seekers to Norway has fallen by two-thirds, compared with the first half of last year. The number is the lowest in nearly 20 years. But what will happen during the autumn is highly uncertain.
There have been 1678 asylum seekers so far this year, a decline of 64 percent. Of these 163 were unaccompanied minors, a decline of 84 percent.
These were the figures when the Directorate of Immigration (UDI) made up status for the first six months of 2016.
According UDI director Frode Forfang we must go back to 1997 to find equally low numbers.
Thus, applicants fell well below the official forecast of 10,000. Although there is nothing today to suggest that last year’s asylum panic will recur, this is highly uncertain maintains Forfang.
– I do not exclude that the number may end well below the forecast, but it can also be more. It can turn very quickly, says Forfang. He points out that late summer and early fall is traditionally the peak season for asylum arrivals.
Ten times more to Sweden
The reason for the sharp decline is primarily that fewer asylum seekers come to Europe. Norway has also had a bigger decline than many other countries. Sweden has still ten times as many asylum seekers as Norway.
– It shows that it is still possible to reach our part of Europe, says Forfang.
To what extent the asyl restrictions adopted by the Parliament has helped to curb asylum stream, is Forfang however uncertain of.
– It is very difficult to say exactly what it is that cause the drop, because there are so many things happening simultaneously. But austerity measures will normally have an effect, he says.
He believes that if there were to be a new upswing this year, it will most likely be asylum seekers from eastern Africa.
– Historically, this is where most come from. These come from Libya via Italy, and from there it is still possible to push further north in Europe, says UDI director. Greece’s northern borders are now almost hermetically sealed.
4,000 cases in the queue
But even if the asylum flow has slowed, the UDI is still struggling with the many cases from last year. Still 14,000 asylum applications, the majority from Syrians, have still not been processed, and some may be over a year old, they briefed NTB .
UDI is working feverishly to bring down the backlog, says Forfang.
– It is likely that the vast majority of asylum seekers who came last autumn, will have their cases processed during the year, he said.
Meanwhile, the decline led to 12.680 reception centers now standing empty. As a space costs 300 kroner per day on average, this means a daily additional expense of 3.8 million.
UDI has now dismissed 4,700 so-called supplementary and option slots at existing reception centres. However, it is very difficult to find the right level, says Forfang.
– We must ensure that we can withstand an increase in the number of arrivals. It would be wrong to terminate established centres now, just before the predicted peak season. Meanwhile, we can not have too much overcapacity either, he said.
If the asylum figures remain low, however, owners of reception centers plan on multiple staff layoffs. Today there are 70 operators contracts with UDI.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today