09:06 GMT +327 June 2019
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    Norway Flooded by Fake Tourists Applying for Asylum

    © AFP 2019 / ODD ANDERSEN
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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)
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    Despite the striking toughening of Norway's immigration laws, which lead to the stream of asylum seekers almost drying up compared to the "bumper crop" year of 2015, the migrant crisis in Norway is far from over. In recent times, the Nordic country has seen a rise in tourists applying for asylum.

    Stricter border controls across Europe have spurred a previously marginal phenomenon — "asylum tourists." One in four asylum seekers arrived in Norway by means of a Schengen visa, mainly as tourists. In the past, their proportion used to be much lower, which indicates an alarming trend.

    "Some applicants arrive by plane in Denmark and Sweden and then travel to Norway," section manager Gro Anna Persheim of the Police Immigration Unit (PU) told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. "Some were able to fly to the Schengen Area with a valid Schengen visa, while others were traveling with borrowed or fake European residence documents," she added.

    The analysis of fingerprints showed that 58 percent of them had received a tourist visa, while the rest had a visa to visit family, do business or undergo medical treatment.

    According to a recent report from the Police Immigration Unit (PU), the proportion of asylum seekers coming to Europe as tourists is steadily rising. Between January and March, 145 asylum seekers produced a valid Schengen visa, compared to a total of 505 since January 2016, the majority of them Turks, Eritreans, Iranians and Iraqis, with some Russians present on the list as well. Italy, France, Spain and Greece granted the largest number of visas to such "asylum tourists," while Riyadh and Istanbul are the leading points of reference.

    In the future, asylum-seeking tourists are expected to become a major challenge as the borders of Europe will be opened further eastward. On June 11, the EU and Norway open their borders to 42 million Ukrainians. Earlier this year, 4 million Georgians received visa waivers. At the same time, the EU is considering visa-free travel for Kosovo and Turkey.

    Anticipating another influx, the Migration Board (UDI) predicted in a letter to the Justice Ministry that the visa waiver for Georgia, Ukraine and Kosovo may lead to a surge in asylum applications "for economic reasons."

    "There is also reason to assume that more people will be able to stay in the country illegally or commit certain forms of crime," UDI wrote.

    Between 2013 and May 2016, 638 Georgians, Ukrainians and Kosovars were expelled from Norway due to groundless asylum applications or illegal residencies. If their numbers were to rise in the future, their cases should be handled more promptly, UDI wrote, suggesting a 48-hour expulsion, followed by an entry ban into the EU for several years.

    The Dublin Agreement stipulates that asylum seekers have their asylum application processed in the country that issued their visa. However, if they have fake or inadequate documents that make it difficult to determine their identity, the application may be processed in their country of destination, in this case Norway.

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    Topic:
    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)

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    Schengen Zone, European Union, Scandinavia, Norway
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