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Beware of unskilled civilians

Hard-pressed and mentally ill asylum seekers are guarded by transport attendants who are barely trained for the job.


[detention] Armed with pepper spray, table legs, planks, hammer and telescopic club, guards attacked seven asylum seekers from Libya. The dramatic event happened during Christmas, December 16, 2004. The asylum seekers, who had been denied their asylum applications, had entrenched themselves in a room in Trandum detention camp at Gardermoen. The guards feared a suicide attack. Finally, the guards managed to break open the door, neutralize asylum seekers using pepper spray, and handcuff them.


Ny Tid has received detailed information via sources in the police about how the action against the Libyans took place. Inside the police, there is now a murmur against what many believe is a far too poor training of the employees. New employees at Trandum have in several cases gone from civilian jobs to the police-like work in the closed camp without any form of training in advance. The Police Association believes this is completely unacceptable.

Here, asylum seekers are interned without legal residence in Norway. That is, asylum seekers who are

have been denied custody, or have been arrested because they lacked identity papers. They all have the same fate in store: They will be sent out of the country. The asylum seekers sit on Trandum for up to a year. Many have mental health problems, and employees have faced situations such as suicide attempts and self-harm.

In order to take care of this assignment, 30 so-called transport officers were employed at Trandum in the summer of 2004. These are civilian employees with limited police authority in the field of immigration.

Precisely because the transport attendants did not have police training, they were given a four-week course organized by the Police College before taking up the job. And there was little to learn in that short time. According to the Police Immigration Unit, they were the course in everything from conflict management, the use of coercive devices and arresting techniques, to ethics, cultural understanding and the Immigration Act.

- However, we considered that it was not very practical with courses. We therefore switched to providing new employees with training and guidance locally at Trandum. It provides as good training as the four-week course, says Chief of Police Arne Jørgen Olafsen in the Police Immigration Unit, which runs Trandum internment camp.

Seven without courses

The chief of police states that seven new transport managers have been employed since July 2004. Four of them are in permanent positions, three of them are temporary workers. These have not received any courses beforehand.

- We initially questioned whether a four-week course was enough to provide the necessary training to the transport companions. Then it is completely unacceptable that companions now go straight into work at Trandum immigration boarding school even without such a course, says union leader Arne Johannessen in the Police Association.

He believes that a review of all those working with limited law enforcement is needed to ensure proper training. In addition to transport officers, this applies to detainees and border inspectors. According to police sources, the management has justified the conduct of courses for transport managers with poor finances.

- It is a very bad excuse to say that you drop the course due to bad advice. Then you would rather hire police officers at Trandum, says Johannessen.

The federal leader understands that others, to a limited extent, take on some of the tasks that are normally the job of the police. But he is very critical that transport leaders be hired at Trandum without a thorough course under the auspices of the Police College.

- This can be a violation of the working environment

the law, says Johannessen.

Bad memory

Police Chief Arne Jørgen Olafsen reacts strongly to what he believes is "process through the media" from the Police Commonwealth.

- I have not even heard anything about this issue from their side. This is bad union work – get it in print, says Olafsen.

Until recently the head of the Oslo Police Association,

Department of Police Immigration Unit, Roger

Håkon Torvund Skår, strikes back.

- I had two meetings with the chief of police about lack of education for newly hired transport companions at Trandum. I asked him to document

ment that they had been given education so that they were competent to do their work. One week later, Olafsen gave me a written overview of training that had been done internally at Trandum. This was very lacking, according to the written, no complete training was given in the various topics contained in the course at the Police College. I expressed this to Olafsen, says Torvund Skår

- That Olafsen characterizes this case as "bad union work" I therefore react to. I would rather characterize this as a bad memory on the part of Chief of Police Olafsen, he adds.

- Highly reprehensible

It ended with a farewell to Norway for the seven Libyan asylum seekers who were overpowered at Trandum in December 2004. In mid-January last year, together with a dozen other asylum seekers from Libya, they were sent by chartered plane to sole ruler Muammar al-Gadafis Libya.

The Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (Noas) does not know what happened to the asylum seekers afterwards. But the organization is very concerned about the use of transport attendants.

- It is completely new to me that people use this type of employment at Trandum. Using unskilled people in a prison institution, as this is, is highly reprehensible, says Morten Tjessem, leader of Noas. n

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