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Principal Hanssen

We who believed that a red-green government should mean a more humane refugee policy now believe again.


[25. August 2006] "Impossible", was Minister of Labor and Social Inclusion Bjarne Håkon Hanssen's response when he was met on Monday with demands from his government colleagues in SV and Sp to stop the return of asylum seekers from Somalia. The Labor Party and the Minister of Labor and Social Inclusion spoke slowly and clearly that the government simply cannot instruct the Immigration Office (Une) to change practices other than through law and regulation.

To emphasize the seriousness, the minister sent another Somali asylum seeker back the next day where he came from. Then he met with Une. At their own discretion to ensure that it is justifiable to return people with final refusal to Somalia.

On Wednesday, Hanssen stated that he relies on UN's decisions. They have better sources than the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and can therefore better judge how safe it is to send the recently returned asylum seekers back to Somalia. Although Norwegian police refuse to follow them there, for fear of being hurt themselves.

In the government statement from Soria Moria, the Red Greens stated that Norway should "to a greater extent" than before follow the recommendations of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Immigration Policy. In recent months, Bjarne Håkon Hanssen has made his mark in cases where he does everything but that. First it was the Afghan asylum seekers who were sent home to a Kabul in dubious condition, now it is Somalis who are sent back in quick succession to the capital Mogadishu. Despite the Soria Moria Declaration and because of the Minister for Inclusion, Norway has now earned a well-deserved reputation as the country in the Nordic countries with the strictest asylum policy. There is nothing to be proud of.

Discussing possible UN soldiers in Darfur, preparing forces for Lebanon and continuing our NATO engagement in Afghanistan is a necessary evil in a global world. But an international commitment also requires care for the people on the run.

Those who come to Norway for protection should receive protection – not dubious return trips contrary to advice from the UN. But while Bjarne Håkon Hanssen is minister, Erna Solberg can smile happily and say like the Duchess on Christmas Eve – "same procedure as last year". Now there is a red-green minister who is the butler.

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