Asylum Seekers Overwhelm Immigration Authorities

Asylum seekers overwhelm immigration authorities

July 17, 2008

The number of people applying for asylum in Norway has more than doubled so far this year, putting extraordinary pressure on the already over-burdened immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet).

UDI director Ida Brresen unveiled new figures on Thursday documenting the stream of asylum seekers and other immigrants seeking working and residence permission.

Not only has the number of would-be refugees jumped. Never before has Norway, which has had a severe labour shortage in recent years, granted so many applications for working permission. There currently are 100,900 foreigners legally allowed to work in Norway, up 24,800 or nearly 30 percent from last year at this time.

As many as 60 new asylum seekers are arriving in Norway every day, and Brresen predicts the year will show a total of nearly 15,000. More than 1,000 persons arrived in June alone.

Asylum was granted to just over 40 percent of the applicants whose cases were reviewed during the first half of this year.

“In order to handle the situation in connection with the increased arrivals of asylum applicants, we need a national effort with local governments helping us out,” Brresen said.

UDI is in the process of sending “informational letters” to all of Norway's mayors, orienting them about the influx and asking how they can help accommodate them while asylum applications are being reviewed.

Many other persons are also trying to move to Norway, and the actual portion seeking asylum is small. Fully 66 percent of the applications handled by UDI so far this year were from foreigners seeking work permission. The next largest group, 25 percent, consisted of legal residents trying to bring relatives to Norway.

Six percent of the applications were from persons who want to study in Norway, while just 3 percent were from those seeking protection in the country.

Aftenposten's reporter
Sigrun Lossius Meisingset


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