Norway: Afghani protest leads to political discussion

A group of Afghan refugees who ended a 600-kilometer protest march over the weekend proceeded to set up camp in front of Norway's Parliament. Their fight against deportation now seems to be splitting the country's government coalition. Two of the political parties forming Norway's center-left government are at odds over the Afghan refugee issue. While Labour Party leaders support immigration officials' decisions to deport them, Socialist Left officials sympathize with the refugees' plight and think they should be allowed to stay. One of Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's closest advisers claimed on national TV that the refugees face no danger back home in Afghanistan and are simply seeking a better life in Norway. Socialist Left leaders, and especially the party's youth branch, argue that Norway must take a more humanitarian approach and recognize that Afghanistan remains a dangerous place amidst rising Taliban insurgency. The Afghan refugees also have won the support of Oslo's conservative Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme, who warmly welcomed the refugees back to Oslo after their protest trek on a traditional pilgrims' trail over the mountains from Trondheim. Kvarme noted that 3 million of their countrymen have fled to neighboring countries like Pakistan and Jordan, and he took up their call that they not be sent back to a country entrenched in war. The mayor of Lillehammer, meanwhile, supports a move to allow the refugees to study at a local college until it's safe enough for them to return home. Police initially threatened on Sunday to round up the 41 Afghan refugees who have had their asylum applications denied. Another four are waiting for asylum decisions. No arrests had been made by Monday morning, however, and the refugees spent the night in sleeping bags under a tarp set up near the Parliament's main entrance. A spokesman for the Parliament said there were no plans to demand their removal, and police were letting them be.
Source: Aftenposten (English)

See also: Norway: Afghanis march in protest

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