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The invisible man

There are thousands of illegal immigrants in Norway. In Italy and Spain many have been granted amnesty, in the United States discussions are ongoing. In Norway, such a proposal is politically dead. "Edward" washes Norwegian floors from early morning until late at night. After twisting the cloth, he goes home – and hides for the state.


[immigration] "Edward" is a Catholic Tamil from Sri Lanka, but it is in Norway that he envisions his future. He lives in a small two-room apartment at a secret address with his wife and two children aged one and three and a half, both born here. No one in the family is allowed to stay in the country – both adults have had their asylum applications finally rejected.

Instead of sitting on the plane home, he went

the family underground. Amazingly enough, pay

"Edward" tax of every penny he earns, and his daughter goes to kindergarten. Private, though. Everything is secret.

- My daughter knows that there is something called Sri Lanka, but she does not want to go there. I do not want her to be yours, either. We have told her that we are not allowed to be here in Norway. That one day they can send us home. It can happen at any time, and then she may never see her homeland again. For her homeland is not my homeland, he says.

No one knows how many illegal immigrants there are in Norway, and when asked for qualified guesses, the answers are at best vague.

A low four-digit number. Certainly under 10.000. A few thousand. The group is naturally difficult to compile statistics on, but probably over three quarters are single young men, and most of them are in Oslo.

Pattern immigrant in hiding

"Edward" is a man in his thirties. He has

gentle manners and friendly eyes. A sad tug lies over his face, but not many minutes pass each time it bursts. Tamils ​​are widely known as pattern immigrants. It is said that they work hard, do not like to spit, stay away from noise and have a good network in between. They help each other when needed, whether it is a job order, a loan when the account is empty, or introduction to the system's rush for new arrivals.

"Edward" first sought political asylum in Norway after the cousin was killed by the Sri Lankan government in the 1980s. But it's a long time ago. If the family returns to their home country, they are probably not in any greater danger than other Tamils. "Edward" is nevertheless determined to cling. The children are the main reason why he has chosen a hidden life in a country that has never welcomed him.

- I want them to grow up in Norway. Sri Lanka is a country full of war and poverty, and education is miserable. Here in Norway, there are good schools, and without education there is no way out. I pay 3-4000 kroner a month for my daughter to go to kindergarten. She will get to know the language and society as well as all other Norwegians.


He stirs sugar into his coffee with hands that have dried and cracked after years of frequent close contact with soapy water. He has little faith in a lasting peace in his home country, but even if calm should subside, he will remain in Norway. His daughter knows no one else


- But if you are sent home, is it not worse for her to have grown up here, and then be thrown into the harsh reality of Sri Lanka without knowing the society or the language?

- Yes. That would be a shock. She has never been anywhere other than Norway.

- Still, do you think it is better that you live in hiding here?

- It is worth it. There is no good life for her there. Maybe we can stay. And here she gets to go to proper school. Education is the most important thing you can give your children.

A red passport had been a gift. A lifetime membership in one of the world's most exclusive and sought after clubs. However, despite the lack of a residence permit, the children have been given Norwegian social security numbers, something "Edward" hopes will hold when they are old enough to enroll in school.

"Edward"'s wife did not want him to talk to Ny Tid, she is afraid that someone will understand who they are. A friend of the family spoke to a journalist, and four weeks later he was on a plane out of the country. It may have been accidental, but the fear is loose when you have so little to gain and so much to lose.

- We are afraid of the police all the time and splash every time someone knocks on the door. And I who have never done anything criminal.

"Edward" knows that one can never hide well enough. He was reminded when a woman was recently killed in Torshov in Oslo, and police went door-to-door to ask if anyone had seen anything. One of those who opened the door was an illegal immigrant. He showed credentials, invited in for coffee and answered police questions. The next day, new police officers came to the door. Today, the man is in jail awaiting return.

But "Edward" – which is actually called something else – will tell its story.

Tax card at a miss

Thousands of preschools each month make a big dent in the budget of a family living on one wash income. By accident, "Edward" still gets a tax card and can work white. The wife would also like to work, but is not blessed with the tax card as the tax office's computer continues to send "Edward" even after the Foreign Office (UDI) has asked him to disappear. Currently she is at home and suits the youngest man.

"Edward" escapes slave labor and the grim conditions that often come with black labor. But he never sees the percentage he pays in taxes. He and the family must be invisible to the system and can forget about child support or other forms of support or performance. The sole provider "Edward" is in practice a generous donor to the Norwegian Treasury.

- I have to earn 20.000 kroner a month, and can hardly save anything, even if I try.

Even when he was in receipt, he was never able to get support until he got a job. He wants to make his own money. He now works 10-11 hours a day, but the weekends are reserved for the kids. It is the presence of those who make him endure.

Others work black or commit crimes for fear of being exposed by the system. "Edward" understands those who are driven to such a life. What really provokes him are those who have been granted residency, but who prefer to relax and live by the support schemes.

Cell and beating

The Norwegian authorities have repeatedly told "Edward" that they do not want him here. First time in 1998. Then he had a temporary work permit and worked with fish in Northern Norway. He waited for answers to the asylum application and was optimistic.

- I liked the job and the country. I was looking forward to getting the papers in order. My brother had been granted residence, and I was promised an answer within 15 months.

After 18 months, he learned that the police had been at the door while he was at work. "Edward" wondered what it was about and went down to the police station. It was the first step on a long journey. The police had received a letter from the UDI stating that his application had been rejected and that he was leaving the country. Immediately.

- I asked to speak to a lawyer, and to my brother. The police said I would meet them when we came to Oslo, so I hoped that everything would work out there.

But "Edward" didn't talk to anyone. He was put right on the night flight to Sri Lanka. Tell the authorities at home, the police advised. Desperate in believing that everything was going to work out, he followed that advice. However, the local police did not look with a keen eye on those who sought happiness in other parts of the world, and threw him on cell after a good game of beating.

Wanted to Norway

- I got bribed out after three days. While I was in prison, I had one thought in my head: I was going back to Norway.

The year after the country "Edward" again in a European country, this time with the girl he had fallen for and married in his home country. They had arranged a visa that invited participants to a conference. Instead, they got in a car and drove in the direction of Norway.

- The wife wanted us to go to a country that had not already thrown me out. But I had friends in Norway, I knew the language and could not bear to start all over again.

The price to go to Norway for the second time was 100.000 kroner. Money that his brother in Norway scraped together. Lots of money for a driver, but blood is thicker than water. When the couple crossed the border into the Kingdom of Norway, "Edward"'s dream from the prison cell had come true – he was back. It was going to be a nightmare-like dream.

It is not just financial support that one looks long for as an illegal immigrant. Living outside the system struggles with health both mentally and physically. "Edward" is afraid of being injured or seriously ill. After two weeks, the employer usually contacts the Social Security Office to get sick pay, and then they discover that something is wrong. Then the life of a small family will end. If they are exposed to something criminal, there is no question about contacting the police. If some of them become seriously ill, a trip to the emergency room can be as daunting as betting that it will go away by itself.

He says he doesn't miss Sri Lanka, but he misses the family. Without documents, he can't visit anyone, so he was hundreds of miles away when his mother was buried last year. She never met her Norwegian grandchildren. Now the father is dead, and "Edward" knows he'll never see him again. It's been eight years since the last.

"Edward "'s only hope is that asylum policy takes a turn in the child-friendly direction, and the family receives asylum because the children are born and raised in the country. But he is pessimistic, either by nature or by necessity. It is easier to deal with setbacks if you expect them. One day, perhaps, a bureaucrat will notice an irregularity in the lists. A crime is being committed in the neighborhood. Or maybe the police decide to take a "big cleaning" as they did with Action Advent in 2002. Regardless, that day may come when the children of "Edward" realize that the homeland is not the homeland.

- One day, maybe the police will find us again. I just hope we can escape. It will be a different country next time, so then we will have to start all over again. Again.

What do the politicians say?

Ny Tid has asked Norwegian politicians:

Should Norway consider amnesty for illegal immigrants?

Lars Henrik Mikkelsen

Leader, Young Left

- Yes. Many live in inhuman conditions, and if people had known what this life was like and taken it upon themselves, many would have been positive to let it go. Norway lacks labor in several sectors, such as construction and health – at the same time we throw people out, or force them to live anonymously outside the system.

- What about those who are afraid that this may set a precedent and increase the problem in the long run?

- There is a lot of fear among the big parties. Conservative leader Erna Solberg was criticized for her attitude when she was in government, but Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Bjarne Håkon Hansen (Labor Party) is no better. We are disappointed that the government is bringing this regime forward. Talking about precedent is scare propaganda.

- But you sat in the previous government yourself?

- The mother party has not taken a stand on amnesty yet. I will address this at the national meeting in June.

Heikki Holmås

Storting representative for SV

- Those who stay here illegally should be transported out when we have the opportunity. We have not considered amnesty before, nor is it something we are considering now. The problem with an amnesty is that once it has been done, it is expected to be done again. It may help in the short term, but two years later the problem may be just as big again.

- If you are granted residence even if you do not have the right to asylum, the legitimacy of the system is weakened. It is, of course, human considerations that speak in favor of amnesty, and there are those in the party who believe that these should weigh heaviest.

- What about situations where there are children who have a strong connection to Norway?

- We see that there are strong human arguments where the children have a strong connection to the country. If there are many children living out of the reach of the authorities in Norway, then it is very worrying.

Per-Willy Amundsen

Storting representative and immigration policy spokesman in Frp

- Illegal immigrants are a matter for the Police, who will arrest them and send them home. It is far too easy and tempting to live in hiding today. We will do something about this by introducing closed asylum reception centers.

- What about an amnesty for those who live here illegally today?

- An amnesty rewards illegal acts and sends the wrong signal. We would rather help this group by making it less tempting to go underground. An amnesty would also be unfair to those who returned home when they were told about it.

Line Khateb

Anti-racist spokeswoman in RV

- In principle, we believe that everyone should have the right to apply for work and residence, and if they do not get it, they must strictly travel home. Those who have lived here for a long time and have a strong connection to Norway should be allowed to stay. Norway should here consider following Spain's example.

- I want to work legally and not be afraid

[rejection] The Palestinian "Yassir" earns under 40 kroner an hour as a driver in Oslo. When he is ill, he goes to the emergency room with the ID of a friend. He hopes he will never have to resort to crime in order to survive, but he will not return to Lebanon. "Yassir" has worked on a temporary work permit before, but after finally refusing the asylum application, he is at the mercy of those who will give him a black job.

- I am wanted in Lebanon because I was active in the PLO / Fatah. If I go home, I will be imprisoned and tortured. The leader of the group has been sentenced to death.

The Foreign Ministry (UDI) does not believe in "Yassir". They believe he is safe and refers to information from a source who has contact with the Norwegian embassy in Syria.

Their source is lying, says "Yassir," something he is not alone in thinking. Jon Ole Martinsen in the self-help organization for immigrants and refugees (Seif) has been in the area, where he followed "Yassir's" history into the seams.

- We met the top leader of the armed branch of Fatah in Lebanon, Mohamood El-Shibel, a PLO legend in the region. He confirmed both orally and in writing that "Yassir" has every reason to fear political persecution if he returns. El-Shibel is in favor of the Palestinians not fleeing the region, but remaining to fight, making his testimony even more credible.

Martinsen also saw documents from the Lebanese authorities confirming that an arrest warrant has been issued on "Yassir".

With assistance from Seif, "Yassir" complained about the refusal and presented the evidence Martinsen brought with him. He was denied entry in the mail three days later.

- Three days!? We gave them proof, how can they check and dismiss it in three days?

"Yassir" is stated, and it does not help that his lawyer says that the only way to get the case resolved is to go to court. Then 56.000 kroner is needed. He has not.

- I move all the time. If I see a police car, I get scared and go another way. I only demand my right as a human being, my right to protection because I am being persecuted because of politics. I want to work legally and not be afraid.

"Yassir" says he had hoped the new government would do something, but that hope is already gone. Now he can do nothing but wait. Like he has been doing for eight years already.

- Norway says they are friends of the Palestinians, points out "Yassir".

- Is that how a friend behaves? n

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