At least six Uzbeks and Uighur were given residence permits in Norway in recent years due to their links to the radical Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Two Uighur brothers whose asylum request had been rejected were granted residence by the appeals board in October 2003. The Central-Asian Uighurs risked persecution due to their links to Hizb ut-Tahrir.
This article was prepared by the Islam in Europe blog - islamineurope.blogspot.com
Since then, at least four other Hizb ut-Tahrir members from the same area were allowed to stay in Norway, according to a survey conducted by Aftenposten of the appeals handled by the UNE. One of the six was granted residence because he convinced the UNE that he had really been active for Hizb ut-Tahrir in his homeland.
Having a background in Islamist movements can in itself be reason to receive a residence permit in Norway.
Spokesperson Bjørn Lyster of the UNE says that the appeals board considers whether they risk persecution or inhumane treatment due to their religious political convictions. In one of the cases, the refugee risked being tortured if he was returned.
The UNE and the Directorate of Immigration (DI) both notify the PST, the Norwegian security service, in such cases.
Bjørn Lyster says that there were only very few such cases. UDI say they have clear routines in such cases.
The immigration services do not have exact figures on how many radical Islamists were granted residence permits in recent years.
In May 2009, Aftenposten revealed that at least seven Taliban members received residence permits in the past years, and that several had lied about their terrorist past to increase their chances of asylum.
Following the terrorist cell arrests, Justice Minister Knut Storberget promised a more serious background check of immigrants and asylum seekers.
He told VG that since the number of asylum seekers decreased by 50% compared to last year, it enables Norway to have better control of those who come, and that less asylum seekers would also decrease the threat of terrorism in Norway.
Kari Helene Partapuoli of the Anti-racism Center (Antirasistisk Senter) says that the minister's statement is an attack on the asylum institute. She says it's wrong to link between asylum seekers and terrorism.
Tore Bjørgo, a terrorism researcher for NUPI (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs) says that is a certain link between asylum seekers and terrorism, but says that Storberget is missing the main pattern. All three terror suspects had permanent residence in Norway, and most terror attacks were committed by people who lived in the country for years, including second generation immigrants.
Partapuoli says that many asylum seekers come to Norway because they're fleeing places where terror groups are active. Most asylum seekers have their identity confirmed and very few are criminals. "If you're fleeing terrorism, you're automatically suspected of terrorism. It's absolutely absurd," she says.
She thinks the link Storberget made will rubb off on the immigration debate. A survey conducted by VG shows that a third of Norwegians have become more skeptical of minorities after the terrorist arrests. 56.8% think immigrants will have a more difficult time in Norway because of it.
State secretary Pål K. Lønseth answered the criticism saying that nobody think all asylum seekers are refugees or terrorism, but that it's clear that there are people among them who want to exploit the asylum system for terrorism. He says that asylum seekers hadn't been involved in many terrorism cases, but that nonetheless 95% of them come without ID. It's important for Norway's security to clarify their identity. Fewer asylum seekers makes that easier.