Lowest number of asylum seekers since 1990’s

asylum seekers july - UDI familyThe Norwegian Department of Immigration (UDI). Photo Norway Today Media

The Immigration Directorate (UDI) announced that it will cut back sharply after a drop in asylum seekers entering Norway to 2,380 in the first half of this year, the lowest number since the 1990s.


The 1,114 regular asylum seekers so far this year are a decline of approximately one-third of last year’s figures, but taking account of the relocated, there’s been an increase of 40%, heavily weighed with people from Syria and Eritrea.

In total, 110 unaccompanied minors have arrived so far in 2017, down 32.5% compared to the same period last year.

The low arrivals both last year, and so far this year have led the UDI to revise the forecasts for the rest of the year. The forecast for 2017 is 3,000 asylum seekers, in addition to 1,250 who will arrive through the EU’s relocation scheme.

This is significantly less than the expected 10,000 people at the same time last year.

The reason for the decline is, first and foremost, that fewer asylum seekers are coming to Europe. The major exception is Italy, which already increased by 19% before the typically high season in late summer. However, this doesn’t particularly affect Norway.

‘Very many of those coming through Libya to Italy come from countries in West Africa and Asia, such as Bangladesh or Pakistan, who don’t typically seek asylum here in Norway. Additionally, many of them aren’t refugees’, said UDI Director, Frode Forfang, to NTB news agency.

Vulnerable to reaching capacity

Should Italy, on the other hand, receive more from Eritrea, Ethiopia or Sudan, who do seek asylum in Norway, the crisis may affect Norway more directly.

‘The situation for the rest of the year is very uncertain. Usually the later half-year brings more than the first half-year, but last year there was no such increase,’ said Forfang.

Due to the revised forecasts and application figures, UDI has changed their level of preparedness considerably. Reception centres have been steadily reduced. Today, 8,700 asylum seekers live at 112 reception centers.

In the autumn, a further 41 reception will be closed, so the capacity is down to 8,700 places, compared to 29,000 just under a year ago.

‘This makes us vulnerable to new fluctuations. It’s also created challenges for operators and municipalities,’ said Forfang.

Fewer in waiting in line
While there were 14,000 untreated applications at UDI offices at the same time last year, the pile has now been cut down to approximately 3,000.

Applications from 2015 have been prioritized, and UDI stated that they are almost completed. Just over half of the 31,150 asylum seekers who came to Norway in 2015 were granted protection. Most of these people are already settled, while 13% still live in reception centres.

Among the asylum seekers who came in through Storskog, 31% received protection in Norway. The rest were either fairly rejected or were referred to a safe third country (569 of them to Russia), or were dropped from the records as a result of disappearance, or withdrawal of their application.

287 of those who were referred to Russia were registered there. The rest, don’t have a UDI overview.

‘Some disappeared, some returned after the Dublin agreement,’ said Forfang.

Faster family reunion
It also means that the UDI have freed up processing capacity, which they have, among other things, lent to the EU for cooperation, and during the past six months, to the embassies in Beirut and Ankara.

UDI also stated that the processing time for family reunification has fallen sharply. In total, 2,994 people have come to Norway via reunification, with 1,173 of those arriving in 2015. Now, the waiting time for submitting applications at the Beirut Embassy is down to a week, against 9 months at its worst.

On Thursday, the Norwegian Refugee Council demanded that Norway also lends help to crisis-driven Italy, as some countries want faster decisions made, but this does not seem to be happening at the moment.

‘We haven’t considered lending staff to Italy. But if the relief organizations and others have access to the case workers, they can hire some of the people we have. We have cut back and cut back some more’, said Forfang.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today