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Norway begins process of relocation for asylum seekers from Greece

Conditions for asylum seekers in the migrant camp Moria have deteriorated as a result of the devastating fire on Lesbos. This has also created an extremely difficult situation for the Greek authorities. The Norwegian Government has therefore started the process of relocation to Norway of asylum seekers from Greece. Norway will take in 50 asylum seekers from Greece.

‘The Ministry of Justice and Public Security has been in contact with the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration today, and asked them to begin the process to relocate asylum seekers from Greece. Norway has been waiting for eight other European countries to take in asylum seekers under the current initiative, but the situation in Greece is so pressing that we must speed up the process. Norway is offering to relocate 50 asylum seekers,’ said Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Mæland.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Security will contact the relevant authorities in Brussels through the Norwegian delegation, and inform them that Norway is offering to take in 50 asylum seekers under the relocation initiative. However, developments in the COVID-19 situation may have an impact on the process.

‘We have chosen to take in vulnerable families with children from Syria, families who have a great likelihood of qualifying for asylum. In this way, we will avoid attracting migrants who don’t have the right to protection. It will be a difficult process under the current conditions, but we have good systems in place and competent personnel who are experienced in carrying out work of this kind,’ Ms Mæland said.

The Greek authorities are facing the very difficult task of finding shelter for a large group of people experiencing a rising number of COVID-19 cases. This complicates both the relief efforts and the evacuation process.

‘Norway is contributing by helping Greece, but at the same time Norwegian asylum policy stands firm. We need a scheme that ensures permanent and binding responsibility and burden-sharing in connection with asylum seekers coming to Europe. However, it is important that such a scheme doesn’t encourage more irregular migration or strengthen human trafficking networks,’ Ms Mæland said.

Norway has taken a significant amount of responsibility for asylum seekers and migrants in Europe. For many years now, Norway has provided extensive aid to support the Greek asylum system. Through the EEA and Norway Grants, Norway has provided over NOK 600 million during the past ten years to expand the Greek Government’s capacity to manage migration into Greece. A large proportion of this funding has been targeted towards vulnerable groups. In 2015-17, Norway contributed generously to the EU resettlement programme, taking in 1 500 people from Greece and Italy. Norway is one of few countries that actually fulfilled its resettlement promise. Norway has sought a situation in which all European countries take responsibility. This is why we have requested a common European solution, or that at least eight countries contribute to relocation before Norway does.