Arrested Afghans in church asylum at Fitjar

Church Asylum Afghan FitjarPolice Cars. Photo: Scanpix

The police arrested Afghan family in church asylum at Fitjar

An Afghan family of five, who has been in church asylum at Fitjar in Hordaland, was arrested  and picked up by the police on Friday, reports


The family was arrested in a police action early Friday morning, writes Nettavisen.

Head of Section for Operational Immigration Section North of the Southwest Police District, Pål Gjil, confirms to NTB that they have completed the action at the request of the Police’s Immigration Unit (PU).

The family is to be transported out of Norway. At PU, NTB is informed that this is part of their usual procedure when returning persons without legal stay in Norway.

– We have made an assessment regarding church asylum, and we clearly mean that this case is not covered by the guidelines by the Ministry of Justice regarding that, says the responsible for media contact.

According to Bergens Tidende, the three children in the family are a five, a four years old and a six months old baby, respectively. Last year, the young children’s family entered into church asylum at the “New Life, Sunnhordland” congregation.

Dramatic action

Frank Håvik, who heads the “New Life, Sunnhordland” church, who has been responsible for the Afghan family in church asylum for some time, says the police actioned between 6 and 7 am on Friday.

– It was a dramatic action. The police appeared with three police cars in addition to an ambulance. They broke the windows, and it was just like a commando raid. This is contrary to the rules regarding church asylum, says Håvik.

The church leader has not been in contact with the family after they were taken by the police. He reacts specifically to the action because their case is appealed to the Court of Appeal.

– They do not have a final verdict in the case, and then they come anyway. This is absolutely horrible, says Håvik.

Raises eyebrows

Jostein Løken, the family lawyer, says its unprecedented that the police are breaking the tradition of not intervening in church asylum cases.

– This is the first time I hear that the police enter into a church. This has been a centuries old protection. That this tradition is broken is something new, he says.

The lawyer says that those who have helped the family do what they can to prevent them being sent out of the country.

– Basically, these matters are very difficult, but we have seen that nothing is impossible in such cases. So we do what can be done, says Løken.

Not in church asylum

Pål Gjil says to Bergens Tidende that it is incorrect that the family was inside a church.

– This is a residential building belonging to a congregation at Fitjar. It’s not a church and not a prayer house. We have thoroughly investigated this, and a lawyer has considered the matter. If they had been in a church, this would have been a different matter, says police officer.

He adds that the action has been carefully considered in advance.

SV: – An action that can not be justified

Karin Andersen (Socialist Party, SV) reacts strongly to the fact that an Afghan family is taken from church asylum in Hordaland.

– There is nothing in the case that can justify such a brutal action against children and break the church asylum, says Andersen, who chairs the Parliaments Municipal and Management Committee, to NTB.

– The Government shows no restraints when it comes to using unnecessary power against refugee families. Such an action will scare and harm the children, and we are not allowed to do that, she points out.

– Now they even show lack of respect for ecclesiastical rooms, says Andersen.

Facts about church asylum

  • Entails that a church for a period of time can serve as a sanctuary where persecuted can not be seized by the police.
  • The practice was introduced in Norway with Christianity, but has roots back to the Old Testament and to Greek temples in ancient times.
  • The term was got renewed attention in the 1990s when refugees who had been refused their application for residence in Norway sought refuge in Norwegian churches.
  • The phenomenon of church asylum is not uniquely Norwegian. In other European countries refugees use church asylum when they have received a final rejection to their asylum application.
  • By law, there is basically no barrier to perform actions against people in church asylum, but the authorities have chosen to refrain from respect for the church room and according to the Immigration Act’s demands for proportionality.
  • An instruction from the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Affairs dated March 4, 1999 states that foreigners with final expulsion orders staying in church asylum should not be arrested without the consent by the church.

© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today