"We can't empty Afghanistan" with asylum approvals, Prime Minister Erna Solberg says
Norway's immigration is "supposed to be fair, but it's supposed to be strict"
She says refugees must adapt to Norwegian culture: "Women in Norway live differently"
Europe must make it known “there is no free entry” to the continent, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told CNN on Thursday.
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour, she said, “There are a lot of other people coming into Europe now who are not directly from a war zone … [and] we are saying that we have to return them. Norway has tried to have a very strong return policy for a long time because it’s important to send a signal back to countries [like] Bangladesh – or if it’s Pakistan or if it’s Afghanistan – that there is no free entry to our countries.”
More than one in three people who claimed asylum in Norway last year were fleeing Syria. But others sought to escape conflict, poverty or repression elsewhere. The second-largest group of asylum-seekers – just under 7,000 people – were from Afghanistan.
Solberg, who leads Norway’s right-wing government, argued: “Afghanistan has safe zones … so it’s possible to send grown-ups back to that country. We can’t empty Afghanistan,” she said.
‘Strict’ but ‘fair’
The Norwegian government tightened its immigration policy after a record number of asylum-seekers – about 31,000 – arrived last year.
It was criticized by Human Rights Watch this week after it made attempts to deport refugees entering from Russia. Several hundred people have been denied entry or returned to Russia since the fall, the organization says.
The U.N .refugee agency has warned Russia’s asylum system may not give adequate protection to those that need it.
Addressing her critics, Solberg said, “We’ve been agreeing on a strict immigration policy to Norway for a long time. It’s supposed to be fair, but it’s supposed to be strict.”
‘Women in Norway live differently’
Norway is serious about integrating the refugees it does accept.
It offers male asylum-seekers classes in Western culture, partly in an attempt to prevent sexual violence against women.
“We need to teach them that women in Norway live differently than women in the countries they come from, and they should be respected for the way they live,” Solberg explained. Nearly 24,000 of the 31,000-odd people who applied for asylum in Norway last year were men.
“We move without our husbands or brothers to take care of us. We even drink and are not supposed to be victims of harassment or abuse because you might have been out late in the evening,” she said.
“Harassment of women is both a criminal offense in Norway, and it’s also makes it possible for you faster to be sent out of our country.”
Donors pledge billions
The Norwegian Prime Minister was speaking at a donor conference in London on Thursday, where world leaders, facing the worst refugee crisis in decades, pledged more than $10 billion to help the victims of Syria’s five-year war. Much of that money will be used to support Syria’s neighbors in an attempt to slow the influx of refugees to Europe.
Norway co-hosted Thursday’s event with Britain, Germany, Kuwait and the United Nations.