The Council of Europe experts on human trafficking have asked Norway to take better care of asylum-seekers, and fear that Norway’s asylum restrictions will hit trafficking victims.
Wednesday’s report from the Council of Europe Expert Group on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) stated that Norwegian authorities need to do more to prevent asylum-seekers disappearing from asylum reception centres.
According to figures from the Immigration Directorate (UDI), 182 asylum seekers disappeared from reception centres for children last year. NRK news reported in May, that so far in 2017, 143 children had disappeared. The fear is that the children are highly vulnerable to exploitation for purposes of prostitution, various forms of crime, and drug trafficking.
‘The authorities must provide clear instructions about who has the main responsibility for finding the children, and notify all relevant authorities to ensure that the children are found and protected’, said the report.
Child welfare or UDI?
The Council of Europe expert group are critical of the fact that children of asylum aged between 15 and 18 live in reception centres run by the Immigration Directorate (UDI), while those under the age of 15 are taken care of by the child welfare service. They refer to a report from the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research (NIBR), which shows that ten times as many children disappear from UDI’s asylum reception centres for minors as from the care centers for the younger children.
The experts also refer to a report from Redd Barna, where children say it is hard to convince UDI staff, and the police, that they are victims of human trafficking, and that the authorities aren’t willing to conduct surveys abroad.
‘The authorities must ensure that all victims of trafficking aged between 15 and 17 years of age are taken care of by the child welfare organization, which must receive the necessary resources and training,’ states the GRETA report.
Reduced deadline for appeals and family reunification
The experts fear that victims of human trafficking will be affected by the asylum restrictions adopted by parliament last year.
A legislative amendment made it possible to reject asylum seekers access to the country if the inflow was large. At the same time, it was decided to reduce the deadline for appeal from three weeks to a week for asylum applications deemed ‘obviously unfounded’, and the rules for family reunification were tightened.
‘GRETA is worried that the new rules limit the possibility of identifying victims of trafficking among asylum seekers.’
Calls for routines
This is the second report the expert group has written about conditions in Norway. In the 2013 report, Norway was asked to write up procedures for all agencies that might come into contact with victims of human trafficking, and adopt improved means of identifying victims among asylum seekers, and immigrants.
So far, such routines are not in place, it mentions in the recent report.
In the report, Norway is praised for increasing the penalties for human trafficking and that the five largest police districts have set up anti-trafficking units.
It is also emphasized that Norway is using children’s homes to hear the stories of child victims, and that male victims have now received an offer of aid through the Salvation Army.
Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today