Migrants in Vestleiren reception center. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Migrants on hunger strike

Migrants afraid to be sent from Norway to Russia without food or money have started a hunger strike in a camp close to the border.
January 18, 2016


Following the recent adoption of stricter refugee policies, Norway has started returning some of the migrants that entered the country through the Russian-Norwegian border last autumn.

Vestleiren refugee camp outside Kirkenes, which was opened in November 2015 to house people arriving from Russia to ask for asylum in Norway, has now been turned into a camp for people how have been denied asylum in Norway and now are awaiting to be returned to Russia.

Some 70 people have during the weekend been sent from different parts of Norway to Vestleiren. The migrants are afraid that they will be sent to Russia in the bitter cold winter without any food or money. Some of them have started a hunger strike.

Both adults and children are on hunger strike as a protest against the treatment they have been given by Norwegian authorities, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation reports. “We have not received any information about what will happen to us”, one of the migrants says to NRK. He was collected from a center in Harstad during the weekend and told that he was going to be sent to the border of Russia. “They told us that we would be interviewed by people from the Directorate of Immigration, but this has not happened. I feel that they will try to send us to Russia tomorrow”.

Campaign group calls for stop in deportations

The campaign group “Refugees welcome to the Arctic”, which is part of the movement Refugees Welcome to Norway, says that deporting asylum seekers to Russia without an actual consideration of their individual asylum applications, is a breach of Norway’s Human Rights obligations, and calls for the hastened deportations to Russia to be stopped immediately.

“In the last few days, a number of asylum seekers have been collected in the middle of the night from reception centres in various locations, and sent to Vestleiren (Western Camp), situated by the border with Russia, awaiting deportation. These are people whose application for asylum have not been considered or processed on an individual basis, as is their right. Amongst the asylum seekers in question, there are persons who do not have legal residency in Russia, and who therefore risk being deported out of Russia and into their country of origin, where many will be in danger of persecution and starch punishment”, the group writes in a press communication.


UN criticizing Norway

Last Friday, UNHCR stated that Norway, by returning asylum seekers without actual and individual consideration of their application for asylum, is in violation of the Human Rights Convention, as well as International Asylum Regulations.

“We have no problems with return of people that have lived in Russia for ten years. But one have to be sure that they have permanent and legal right to stay there. One cannot deport asylum seekers that have an uncertain future in Russia. We know that many are in need of protection, but that they risk being sent back to their home country. We have seen this before”, Head of UNHCR in Europe Vincent Cochetel said, according to Aftenposten



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