Asylum Seekers Risk Persecution if Sent Back to Chechnya
According to an article in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenpost, immigration authorities in Norway say that if Chechen asylum seekers are sent back to Chechnya, they are not at risk of persecution. The Norwegian courts say just the opposite; they are at risk!
According to the story, a young man saw his cousin was killed and he himself was shot, arrested and grossly abused in Chechnya. When he saw the chance, he and his mother immediately left Chechnya and asked for asylum in Norway. The Immigration Directorate of Norway (UDI) refused their request because their opinion is that the asylum seekers will not persecuted in Chechnya if they sent back. The supreme board, which is the Immigration Appeal Board of Norway (UDE), agreed with the decision. The Chechen family did not give up and instead brought their case in front of the courts with the help of the law firm Scjøtt, which provides free legal aid as a part of the Bar Association’s asylum project. During the hearing, the law firm presented a picture that was drawn by a Chechen child. In the picture, a Chechen child described what their life was like in Chechnya. “Early in the morning, some masked men broke into their home and took their mother. A crying small child clings to legs of her mother. The two other children are crying in their beds. The weapons are turned on the mother and children…”. After the presentation, they won the case. The verdict of the Oslo City Court completely disagreed with the immigration authorities and decided that their decisions were not valid. This is a really important decision, as now the court says that if Chechen asylum seekers are sent back to their homeland, they will be at risk for persecution. It was also pointed out that Kadyrov’s armed bandits are terrorizing people into going to the mountains to fight.
Aage Borchgrevink, the advisor of Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), said that the NHC, as well as other human rights organizations like Amnesty International and the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), have repeatedly criticized the policy of the Norwegian government against Chechen asylum seekers. “All the human rights organizations assess the situation in Chechnya as very serious. Even the Council of Europe reviews grave human rights violations like disappearances, torture, abuse, illegal detention, burning of homes and other punitive measures against family members connected to the fighters,” he said. He also stressed that, “Now we are again demanding from our government to stop all of the forced returns of Chechens!”
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee wonders why their was a change in government policy after 2007. According to earlier data, 75% of applicants received refugee status in Norway. But in 2009, only 5 of 744 asylum applications were granted refugee status with 43 receiving asylum on humanitarian grounds. There were 466 rejections, and the rest are mostly so called “Dubliners,” thus they have been sent back to the first land they sought asylum in within the European Union. In 2010, 18 of 652 asylum seekers have been granted refugee status, 8 of them could stay on humanitarian reasons and 422 of them have been rejected.
Julie Wilhelmsen, a researcher on the Chechen issue at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), says that in some cases, returned Chechens were confronted with persecution. She stresses that the current human rights situation in Chechnya is very, very bad with serious human rights violations such as torture, disappearances and executions.
She cannot forget a trial from a couple of years ago, in which it was concluded that asylum seekers did not need protection. “I was shocked that the court allowed them to be sent back. The rejected arguments were used in the human rights organization’s subjective assessments. The information, which came from the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Memorial, the Russian human rights organization, is quite possibly the most objective information,” said Wilhelmsen.
*Text was translated by Waynakh Online and edited by Michael Capobianco