Meld. St. 12 (2010–2011)

Assistance to Norwegians abroad

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5 Assistance in critical situations

The assistance provided by the Foreign Service to Norwegians abroad may be divided roughly into two categories. The first is assistance in critical situations in connection with accidents, illness, death, arrest or detention, etc., and the follow-up of such cases. The second is in connection with administrative tasks, such as issuing passports, solemnising marriage, performing notarial acts, etc. The second category of assistance is generally provided by the diplomatic and consular missions on behalf of other Norwegian public institutions or as authorised by such institutions. This type of assistance is dealt with in Chapter 6. The missions also provide assistance to Norwegians in crisis situations, and this is discussed in Chapter 7.

For many Norwegians, the first encounter with the Norwegian Foreign Service is due to an unforeseen incident during a trip abroad, such as illness, an accident, theft or death. The Foreign Service always gives priority to assisting people who have an acute need for help, regardless of where they happen to be or the time of day or night. The Foreign Service Response Centre can convey information and put the closest embassy or consulate in contact with a person in distress when necessary.

The Norwegian authorities do not keep regular statistics on Norwegians who are involved in accidents abroad. Figures from Finance Norway show, however, that there were more than 260 000 accidents in 2010, an increase of more than 13% over the previous year. More than NOK 1.3 billion was paid out in damages.

5.1 Accidents

Many Norwegians who are involved in accidents abroad contact the Foreign Service in connection with treatment by a doctor or at a hospital. All embassies and consulates are required to have an overview over doctors and hospitals in the area. The missions cannot, however, guarantee the quality of the services these doctors and hospitals provide. Insurance companies generally have their own lists of hospitals they recommend, and sometimes even require their clients to use them in order to have their expenses reimbursed.

The assistance provided by the Foreign Service after a person has been treated by a doctor or at a hospital is mainly in the form of help to contact family members, relevant hot-lines, insurance companies and, if appropriate, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and the Norwegian Church Abroad.

Boks 5.1 Travel insurance is essential

Many people have accidents in mind when they consider the need for travel insurance. It is, however, important to check exactly what such insurance covers – and what it doesn’t. For example, ordinary travel insurance does not cover accidents that occur in connection with extreme sports or expenses in connection with illnesses known to the insured person before starting on the trip. There are big differences between the various types of insurance. A year-round travel insurance generally provides much better coverage than a one-off insurance policy that is sold together with another product as an extra service.

Sometimes Norwegian citizens abroad expect, and even demand, that the Norwegian authorities cover both medical expenses and their return ticket to Norway. The Foreign Service does not, however, have funds available for such purposes. Therefore it cannot cover such expenses or provide a guarantee for such expenses unless the person concerned, a family member, an employer or some other person provides a guarantee. If there is no one who can provide a guarantee for such expenses, a mission may in certain cases grant the person concerned an emergency loan.

Boks 5.2 Emergency loans

Only after all other means have been exhausted may a diplomatic or consular mission grant an emergency loan, which will normally be for transport back to Norway at the earliest available opportunity. An emergency loan may not be given to enable a person to continue their holiday or a stay abroad for other reasons. In order to be eligible for an emergency loan for transport back to Norway, the person concerned must be a Norwegian citizen, have a permanent address in Norway and receive a fixed salary, pension or social security benefits in Norway. Applications for loans must be made on the prescribed form, and the applicant must confirm that he or she consents to regular deductions being made from his or her income, social security benefits or pension to repay the loan. If an emergency loan is not repaid as agreed on return to Norway, the amount will be collected by the tax authorities, who will deduct it from earned income, pensions or social security benefit payments.

Likewise, the Foreign Service may not reimburse expenses for search or rescue operations involving Norwegians who are missing in connection with an expedition abroad. In such cases, too, any assistance will be confined to notifying and following up the matter with the competent local authorities in the country concerned.

Boks 5.3 Search and rescue operations

The responsibility for search and rescue following accidents or natural disasters lies with the authorities of the country concerned, whereas the Norwegian authorities are in control of and responsible for any rescue operations carried out in areas that fall under Norwegian search and rescue jurisdiction. The priorities set by the authorities in another country may differ from those many Norwegians would consider to be reasonable and prudent. This may be due to different traditions, different ways of organising rescue operations or differences in terms of available resources. It is important that Norwegians are aware that any expenses incurred in connection with search and rescue operations abroad are not covered by ordinary travel insurance.

5.2 Illness

As a general rule, Norwegian citizens are not entitled to medical treatment abroad. This does not, however, apply to stays in another Nordic country or temporary stays in another EEA country1 or Switzerland.2 In such cases, Norwegian citizens are entitled to reimbursement of expenses for any medical treatment required during their stay on an equal footing with citizens of the country concerned on presentation of a European health insurance card certifying that he or she is a member of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme.3 If a need for medical treatment should arise during the trip and the person concerned has not taken such a card with them, they may contact the HELFO service centre, which will issue a temporary card and send it to the institution providing treatment. The temporary card entitles the holder to the same rights as the health insurance card. It is important to be aware that not all European countries have the same health service standards as Norway.

Medical expenses incurred during temporary stays outside the EEA/Switzerland are not covered by the Norwegian authorities or the authorities of the country concerned.

Norwegian citizens who have moved away from Norway are not entitled to reimbursement of medical expenses regardless of their place of residence as they are no longer members of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme. Persons who have resided or intend to reside abroad for more than 12 months, or for more than six months a year over a period of two years or longer, are considered to have moved away from Norway. This does not apply for example to students who are financing their studies abroad through the Norwegian State Educational Loan Fund, or to persons who have been granted voluntary membership of the National Insurance Scheme.4

It is therefore essential that persons travelling or staying outside the EEA/Switzerland for extended periods have travel insurance.

Although the Foreign Service does not have resources to cover hospital expenses incurred by Norwegians abroad, the missions may provide a financial guarantee to cover such expenses provided the patient, a relative or other person has deposited sufficient funds with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs beforehand. The same applies with regard to return transport to Norway in the event of serious illness.5 Both hospital care and return transport to Norway can be extremely expensive. For example, emergency treatment for a heart attack at a private hospital in the US may cost several hundred thousand Norwegian kroner. The cost of transporting a patient back to Norway in a hospital bed, accompanied by medical personnel, is in the same range.

An increasing number of Norwegians are travelling abroad on their own initiative to try out new and often untraditional treatment methods because they consider the treatment available in Norway insufficient. For example, clinics in a number of countries offer experimental cancer treatment that Norwegians may be interested in. It is important to be aware that travel insurance does not cover expenses in connection with illnesses known to the insured person before starting on the trip. Thus, private trips abroad for medical treatment entail a considerable financial risk.

Boks 5.4 Illness abroad

The vast majority of travel insurance claims are related to illness abroad. In 2010 there were more than 83 000 claims for compensation in this category, totalling NOK 594 million. Since 2005, this type of compensation has more than doubled measured in constant prices. Compensation for illness while travelling is increasing much more quickly than compensation for other losses due to theft and lost baggage, trip cancellation and accidents.

In 2010, travel insurance compensation payments totalled NOK 1.36 billion, and there were a total of 260 000 claims. The second highest category was compensation for losses due to theft and lost baggage, which totalled NOK 296 million. This was followed by trip cancellation claims, totalling NOK 203 million, and accident compensation claims, totalling NOK 130 million.

5.3 Theft

Various types of theft are very common in many countries, not least in many typical tourist destinations. The Foreign Service is not always involved in cases involving theft of money, credit cards and mobile phones, as the persons concerned often contact their bank and insurance company and the police themselves.

In cases where a traveller’s passport is stolen, however, the assistance of a Norwegian diplomatic or consular mission is required to obtain a new passport or other travel document.

The Foreign Service can also provide travellers with advice and guidance in other areas where they are unable to resolve their problems on their own.

5.4 Arrest and prosecution

Sometimes Norwegians are arrested while they are abroad. The grounds for the arrest may be anything from suspicion that the person has overstayed his or her visa to allegations of sexual assault or murder. If a diplomatic or consular mission learns that a Norwegian citizen has been arrested, it will give the matter high priority. The mission will seek to ensure that the person’s right to due process is respected, but will not interfere in the case itself or take a position on the question of guilt. The mission can, however, assist the arrested person by contacting family members and others he or she may wish to speak to. The mission will also ensure that the arrested person has access to a lawyer or legal aid in accordance with the rules and procedures applicable in the country in question. If a lawyer has not been appointed, the mission may provide the person concerned with a list of lawyers and help establish contact with them. The Foreign Service may not, however, recommend a specific lawyer or pay for legal expenses or other legal aid.

Norwegian citizens who are accused of serious criminal offences or are the victim of a serious crime abroad (see Chapter 5.5) may apply to the County Governor in Oslo and Akershus for free legal aid.6 The mission can assist in forwarding applications for such assistance. Legal aid may cover expenses for legal expenses in the country in question and other expenses connected with any judicial proceedings. In certain cases, expenses related to the assistance of a Norwegian lawyer may also be covered. Free legal aid is generally only provided to persons whose income and assets are below a certain level. If there are legal aid arrangements that cover legal assistance in the country in question, the person concerned must avail him- or herself of those. There seems to have been some doubt in certain cases as to whether the Norwegian legal aid system covers legal aid provided abroad. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security will therefore consider whether there is a need to amend the Act relating to free legal aid in order to clarify this point.

If the diplomatic or consular mission is in reasonable proximity to the prison, it will generally also be able to assist in transferring money so that the arrested person can buy necessary items and services while in custody. The mission will not provide translation services, neither simultaneous interpretation nor translation of documents, in connection with court proceedings. In all countries, it is the responsibility of the prosecuting authority to ensure that persons charged with an offence understand the proceedings. In civil cases it is up to the parties to produce certified translations of the documents concerned.

The Norwegian authorities can only provide assistance if the mission has been informed of the arrest and the arrested person wants such assistance. This is not always the case. When Norwegian citizens are arrested abroad, the Norwegian authorities are not automatically informed of the matter,7 as it is up to the arrested person to request that this be done. Moreover, sometimes the arrested person does not want any contact with the Norwegian authorities.

Despite extensive efforts in recent decades to promote human rights and the rule of law across national borders, legal systems and due process guarantees vary from country to country. Norwegian citizens who are arrested and detained abroad cannot expect the same standards as in Norway.

In cases where Norwegian citizens abroad are suspected of and perhaps subsequently charged for a serious criminal offence, the Norwegian authorities may become involved in various ways. In some cases, the Norwegian police authorities may, subject to certain restrictions, initiate an investigation.8 The Norwegian authorities may, in cooperation with the local authorities, assist in establishing the facts of the case provided that they have information that is relevant for the investigation. The Norwegian authorities may also be requested to provide legal assistance. In recent years, international police cooperation has been intensified and there is closer cooperation between foreign and Norwegian police and prosecuting authorities, including in cases where Norwegians are under criminal prosecution abroad. Such cooperation involves Norwegian police liaison officers who are attached to the embassies, and it is important to clarify the roles to be played in relation to the consular assistance provided by the Foreign Service. In cases that go on for some time or are complex, it may be difficult to find a balance between various Norwegian considerations. The Government is seeking to improve coordination in such cases.

The Norwegian authorities set clear limits to the right of foreign states to intervene in legal proceedings before Norwegian courts.9 Likewise, they show great caution about going into the legal aspects of cases that are being prosecuted before foreign courts. However, the Norwegian authorities may become more actively engaged in cases where Norwegian citizens are involved and the criminal process is obviously unsatisfactory, there is gross differential treatment, or human rights are being violated.

5.5 Serious criminal cases

Norwegian citizens abroad are occasionally subject to gross violence, such as rape or murder, for example in connection with crimes for gain. The need for assistance varies considerably according to the type of crime, where in the world it took place and how long ago. The Foreign Service always gives priority to such cases. The assistance provided by the diplomatic and consular missions primarily involves contact with relatives, and if necessary with local welfare services and the Norwegian Church Abroad. It may also be appropriate to establish contact with the local police and the judicial authorities, and with a lawyer if the victim so chooses.

Judicial procedures and views of the seriousness of various crimes vary greatly from country to country. This applies not least to cases involving violence against women. Reporting cases of rape and other forms of violence against women to the police and judicial authorities in certain countries may put a great strain on the victim. Because of differing views of the victims’ legal status, particularly if they are women or children, some people choose not to pursue a case any further abroad even though they would have done so in Norway.

The authorities of the country where the crime was committed are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the case. In murder cases, relatives may have a need for contact with the victim’s local police in Norway, and the Norwegian police authorities may also have information that is relevant to the investigation being carried out by the foreign authorities. Such contact is generally in the form of cooperation between the prosecuting authorities of the two countries. This cooperation is subject to the approval of the country conducting the investigation and it must be in accordance with existing legislation and agreements. Foreign police authorities may request assistance from their Norwegian colleagues through police channels. In some cases, vital time and information can be lost and important investigative steps impeded because a request from another country is received too late or not at all. With a view to assisting relatives as best possible and helping to solve the case in the best possible way, the Foreign Service and the National Criminal Investigation Service (Kripos) will develop new routines for notifying family members when Norwegian citizens are killed abroad. This will enable the Norwegian police to contact relatives quickly and to offer assistance and information on their own initiative to the foreign police authorities investigating the case.

Criminal prosecution is difficult in cases where Norwegian citizens are injured or killed abroad and the suspect is from a third country and manages to return to that country after committing the crime. Regardless of whether there are convention obligations or an extradition agreement with the third country in question, most countries, including Norway, have provisions in their domestic legislation that prevent them from extraditing their own citizens to a foreign state.10 As long as the suspect remains in his or her country of origin, the only option may be to transfer criminal proceedings to that country. However, this is not possible in cases where there is insufficient information or where the prosecuting authority of the country where the crime was committed does not wish to transfer the proceedings to that country. There may be a number of reasons why a country does not wish to transfer proceedings to the suspect’s country of origin. For example if that country practises the death penalty. In such cases, the only solution is to issue international bulletins with a view to apprehending the suspect in connection with a trip abroad and for him or her to be extradited to the country where the crime was committed, alternatively for the suspect to return to that country voluntarily.

The Norwegian authorities are strongly engaged in international efforts to abolish the death penalty. In cases where Norwegian citizens are sentenced to death abroad, or are indicted for crimes that may carry the death penalty, the Norwegian authorities will underscore Norway’s opposition to the death penalty as a matter of principle and request that the sentence not be carried out. The possibility of the perpetrator being sentenced to death will affect cooperation on the investigation with the country concerned as the Norwegian authorities will not provide information or other evidence that enhances the possibility that a person will be sentenced to death.

5.6 Piracy

In recent years there has been an increase in piracy, particularly in the sea areas off the coast of Somalia. On several occasions, attempts have been made to board ships with ties to Norway.

Shipping today is truly international. The crew members are often from a number of different countries, the ship may be owned and operated by another country, and it may be registered under the flag of yet another country. Under international law, if a ship is attacked by pirates, the primary responsibility for dealing with the situation lies with the flag state. If there are Norwegian citizens among the crew, the Government will seek to ensure that they are released, regardless of the flag state. In other cases, for example where the ship’s ties to Norway are primarily commercial, the Norwegian authorities will play a less prominent role unless there are special circumstances indicating that they should do otherwise.

5.7 Serving a sentence abroad

As of 1 April 2011, there were about 60 Norwegians serving prison sentences in other countries.11 They are in prisons all over the world. The Foreign Service seeks to visit Norwegian inmates in foreign prisons as often as possible if the persons concerned so wish. However, some of the prisons are located far from any Norwegian diplomatic or consular mission, which makes frequent visits difficult. There are a number of other factors that determine how many visits Norwegian inmates can expect, such as the size of the staff at the nearest mission, whether special permission is required, security considerations, etc. The Norwegian Church Abroad and other NGOs also carry out such visits.

Norwegian citizens serving sentences in other countries cannot expect standards that are higher than the general prison standards in the country in question. In many prisons, however, inmates may purchase items and services that make their situation easier. In many cases, the Foreign Service will be able to assist in transferring funds provided by relatives or others to the inmate.

Once there is a final judgment, the convicted person may apply to be transferred to Norway to serve his or her sentence. Such applications may be sent via the nearest Norwegian embassy to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security for consideration.12 The Council of Europe Transfer Convention, which Norway is party to, has been ratified by 64 member states. Norway has also entered into a bilateral agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons with Thailand and a similar agreement with Romania. The Norwegian authorities may also enter into transfer agreements in individual cases, for example in cases where Norwegians are serving a sentence abroad under difficult conditions and wish to be transferred to Norway. Such agreements only apply to a specific case.

5.8 Assistance to minors

Every year the Foreign Service is contacted in cases where Norwegian minors13 abroad are in acute need of assistance. Most of these involve a serious disagreement between the parents and the child, or between the parents themselves on a matter regarding the child. Both types of case can be very difficult.

Most of the cases involving disagreement between the parents and the child concern the abandonment of children. For example, immigrants sometimes entrust the care of their child to others, for example relatives, in their country of origin, to ensure that the child is brought up in accordance with that country’s culture and values. If the parents have joint parental responsibility and both agree that the child should remain abroad, there is little the Norwegian authorities can do. The Norwegian child welfare service can only intervene in cases of proven neglect when the child is in Norway. Once the child has left the country, the Norwegian authorities cannot formally pursue the matter, even if the child is a Norwegian citizen, without the parents’ consent. However, if the Foreign Service learns that a Norwegian child is in a difficult situation abroad, it will generally contact the parents and/or notify the child welfare service in the country in question. Unless the parents give their consent, the Foreign Service will only take further steps in cases where it is deemed that the child’s life and health are in immediate danger.

In 2004 a proposal was put forward in the Storting to amend the Child Welfare Act14 to apply also to Norwegian children who are resident abroad. The proposal was not adopted, partly because it would be incompatible with the principle of territoriality in international law.

Norwegian children may also be abandoned for short periods of time, for example because their parents have drug abuse or mental health problems. In such cases care of the children may need to be provided until the parents are once more able to care for them. Several times a year, the Foreign Service has to organise assistance for children who have been abandoned by their parents while on holiday abroad. This is done in close consultation with the tour operator, the Norwegian Church Abroad and, if necessary, the local health service, child welfare service or police. In particularly grave cases, the Foreign Service assists in the child’s return to Norway, after which the child welfare service arranges for further follow-up.

Boks 5.5 Abandoned children

The Foreign Service Response Centre received a call at 04:30 one morning from a representative of a tour operator who said that they were concerned about an 11-year-old. His mother, who had been intoxicated for much of the stay, was nowhere to be found despite the fact that they were due to leave for Norway in a few hours. The Response Centre contacted the child welfare duty officer in the child’s county of residence, who arranged for someone to fetch the child on arrival at the airport in Norway if the mother did not turn up. The Response Centre therefore advised the tour operator to send the child to the airport. The child’s mother came back to the hotel just before they were to depart for the airport, but was not allowed to board the plane because she was intoxicated. The child travelled back home with another family and was fetched by his uncle on arrival in Norway. His mother returned on a later flight.

The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion has drawn up guidelines for dealing with cases involving children who have been abandoned abroad,15 and a guide for Norwegian families with children who move abroad.16

Such problems may also arise in connection with forced marriage and female genital mutilation, both of which are criminal offences under Norwegian law.17 The Norwegian authorities are very concerned about both these forms of abuse and have drawn up action plans for combating them.18 In addition to the measures implemented in Norway, such as employing advisers on minority matters at several Norwegian schools, integration advisers have been posted at four Norwegian embassies: Amman, Ankara, Islamabad and Nairobi. Their task is to prevent these practices, for example through networking, and they also give advice in specific cases. If a diplomatic or consular mission becomes aware of a serious risk of such abuse, it will immediately contact the competent authorities in the country concerned and in Norway with a view to preventing a forced marriage or female genital mutilation from being carried out or facilitating the victim’s return to Norway.

As of 2009, persons who reside in Norway and were under the age of 25 when they married, and whose spouse is a citizen of a country from which a visa is required to enter Norway, are required to submit to an interview in connection with an application for family reunification. The purpose of this new rule is to identify cases of forced marriage. The interview is generally carried out after the spouse has applied for family reunification, but it may also take place before the marriage is solemnised.

Boks 5.6 Forced marriage

Seventeen-year-old “Nora”, who is a Norwegian citizen and resident in Norway, was taken to her father’s country of origin with the rest of the family. There she became engaged to a much older cousin. She did not want to marry him, so she contacted a friend in Norway and told her what had happened. Her friend notified a member of staff at the school, who contacted Nora. The school counsellor also contacted the integration and diversity adviser at the embassy in the country concerned, who followed up the case there. However, as Nora was still under 18 years of age and had to have her father’s consent to leave the country, which he refused, it was not possible to help her to return to Norway. Nora contacted the school counsellor again immediately after her 18th birthday. She said that she would soon be forced to move in with her cousin, who had abused her and threatened to rape her. She was in a desperate situation and requested help to leave the country. She would have to leave without her cousin finding out about it. The Embassy arranged transport to the airport and issued an emergency passport, and helped to get her back to Norway. She had to break off all contact with her family.

Cases where the parents disagree on what is in the child’s best interests can be both deeply distressing and very difficult for everyone involved.19

The Norwegian authorities regularly come into contact with families where the parents have different nationalities and where, after a separation or divorce, they are unable to agree on who should have responsibility for the child. If the child is also of foreign nationality and is staying in that country, the assistance the Norwegian authorities can offer is limited.

Child abduction cases are particularly challenging. These are cases where a child is taken out of the country unlawfully, i.e. in contravention of the parental rights of one of the parents. The term also covers cases where a child is retained abroad following a holiday or access visit, and cases where a child is abducted after being placed in care by the child welfare service. Child abduction by a parent is unlawful under Norwegian law20 and subject to a penalty in cases where the parent who has access rights abducts a child from the parent with whom the child lives permanently.21 It is also a criminal offence for parents to abduct a child from the child welfare service or foster parents after a care order has been made. Child abduction cases are often very complex because those involved – both parents and children – may have different nationalities. In some cases the legislation of the two countries may come to different conclusions with regard to which of the parents has responsibility for the child. International conventions and agreements have been drawn up to safeguard the best interests of the child in situations where the parents disagree on who is to have parental responsibility. The most important of these is the Hague Convention of 1980,22 but there are other agreements as well.23

Boks 5.7 The Hague Convention

The aim of the Hague Convention is to restore the child’s situation to the way it was before the abduction or retention took place. Children abducted from Norway to another country must be returned to Norway so that decisions about their future may be made there. The return of a child does not entail a decision about who will have custody, where the child will live or the extent of access in future. However, in practice it determines which country will deal with these issues.

Boks 5.8 Child abduction – amicable settlement

A mother and father had joint custody of their daughter after a family break-up. The mother took the child with her on holiday to her country of origin, but failed to return as agreed. The father contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian embassy and consulate in the country where the child was staying and engaged a lawyer. The honorary consul helped him to find his daughter. The father brought the case before a court and was awarded the day-to-day care of the child. According to the ruling, she was to return to Norway. However, the daughter had dual citizenship, and in the country in question the mother was automatically awarded the care of the child until her seventh birthday. The only solution was to reach an amicable settlement with the child’s mother. The father contacted the mother and child and made an agreement with the mother that the child could return home with him. The embassy issued a passport and provided practical assistance in connection with the trip back to Norway.

A legal settlement is generally reached in cases covered by international agreements. However, as a number of cases illustrate, it can take a long time to reach a decision, and this can be difficult to implement. One reason for this is a lack of expertise in this area of law in the local courts of certain countries.

The most difficult child abduction cases are those between Norway and countries that are not party to the Hague Convention or other international agreements. This includes Middle Eastern countries in particular as well as other countries where the case-law differs greatly from that in Norway. In these cases, the Norwegian authorities can do little more than seek to facilitate arbitration between the parties, put them in touch with local lawyers and, if necessary, issue passports and provide assistance in connection with the child’s return to Norway where the applicable national law provides for this.

A total of 43 new cases involving 64 children were registered in 2010. Sweden (18) tops the list of countries to which children were abducted from Norway in the period 2004–2010, followed by the UK (15), the US (12), Denmark (10), Iran* (9), Iraq* (9), Turkey (9), Brazil (8), Spain (8) and the Philippines* (7).24

There is reason to believe that the increase in the number of marriages and partnerships between people from different countries will lead to an increase in the number of child abduction cases. The Norwegian authorities are therefore working actively, both internationally and nationally, to prevent child abduction and further strengthen legislation in this field. Information on the Government’s efforts and measures to deal with child abduction is available on a special website on the subject.25 The Government is also considering the possibility of stopping public benefits and child allowance in international child abduction cases. It is also considering practical and financial arrangements for returning minors to Norway without both parents’ consent. The Government attaches great importance to preventing child abduction. The Norwegian authorities are for example seeking to persuade more countries to join the Hague Convention of 1980.

Boks 5.9 Child abduction – legal settlement

A foreign citizen who is resident in Norway had children with two different Norwegian fathers. She was deprived of the day-to-day care of the children by the District Court. Soon afterwards she took the children with her to her country of origin, an island state in the Pacific Ocean. The case was brought before a local court. The judge gave decisive weight to the ruling of the Norwegian District Court and the children were returned to their fathers in Norway.

The Government’s aim is that Norway should also accede to the Hague Convention of 1996.26 This convention entered into force in 2003 and supplements the child abduction conventions with provisions governing parental responsibility and a number of procedural measures for protecting children. An interministerial committee is in the process of reviewing the Children Act, the Child Welfare Act, the Guardianship Act and the legislation relating to the administration of justice to determine whether Norwegian legislation would need to be amended if Norway were to become party to the convention.

Figur 5.1 

Figur 5.1



In accordance with the Nordic Convention on Social Security and the EEA Agreement, respectively.



A European health insurance card may be obtained from the Health Economics Administration (HELFO).


For example, the Embassy in Bangkok makes advances of about NOK 12 million every year for treatment and return transport for Norwegians who become ill while in Thailand.


This does not apply to the Nordic countries, as extra expenses for return transport from these countries in the event of illness may be reimbursed.


Act of 13 June 1980 No. 35 relating to free legal aid.


It follows from the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations that States are not entitled or obliged to contact the authorities of the receiving State when a foreign national is detained. This does not, however, apply to the UK or Russia because of special bilateral agreements. Persons who are detained, on the other hand, are entitled to contact consular representatives of their own country (cf. Article 36).


Cf. section 12 of the Penal Code.


According to the principle of territoriality in international law, the receiving State is entitled to exercise authority by enacting legislation, rendering judgments and employing coercive measures within its own territorial limits.


Norway may only extradite its own citizens to other Nordic countries.


The Foreign Ministry’s statistics on Norwegians serving prison sentences abroad may not be up to date, among other things because some inmates do not want the Norwegian authorities to know that they are in prison and therefore do not contact the Foreign Service. The real figure is therefore probably somewhat higher.


Act of 20 July 1991 No. 67 relating to the transfer of convicted persons and the Council of Europe Convention of 21 March 1983 on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons (Council of Europe Transfer Convention).


In Norway, persons under the age of 18 are considered to be minors.


Act of 17 July 1992 No. 100 relating to child welfare services (Child Welfare Act).


Cf. (Norwegian only).


Cf. (Norwegian only).


Cf. section 253 of the Penal Code and section 1 of the Act relating to female genital mutilation.


The Government’s current action plans for combating forced marriage and female genital mutilation (2012) are a follow-up to the previous plans in these areas, which covered the period 2008–2011, cf. (Norwegian only).


See Chapter 6.1 for a discussion of the challenges involved in issuing passports to minors.


Act relating to the recognition and enforcement of foreign decisions concerning custody of children, etc., and on the return of children.


Cf. section 216 of the Penal Code.


The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, incorporated into the Child Abduction Act.


Cf. the European Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions concerning Custody of Children and on Restoration of Custody of Children of 20 May 1980, but it is rarely invoked.


The countries marked with an asterisk have not acceded to the Hague Convention.




Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children.

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