United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

17-18 April 2012

Tuesday 17 April to Wednesday 18 April 2012

UN criticises Denmark concerning racist assault on refugee family


The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticises Danish police for not investigating the case of an assault on an Iraqi refugee family in 2004. The Iraqi refugee family was attacked in their home by 35 youngsters – some of them armed. Four of the attackers were convicted of violence, vandalism and illegal possession of weapons, but a possible racist motive for the assault was never investigated. The family has unsuccessfully tried to take the case of racism to court. The Committee recommends that Danish authorities give the family a suitable compensation for material and moral damages caused by violations of UN conventions. The Committee also recommends that Denmark reviews its policy and guidelines on prosecution of alleged racial discrimination and racially motivated violence. 

Opposition fought against new family reunification rules


The Conservatives (C), the Liberal Party (V), and the Danish People’s Party (DF) all voted against new family reunification rules making it easier for small children to stay with their families. However, the Government had sufficient support in Parliament when the agreement was negotiated in February. The legal amendments mean that children up to eight years old can be reunited with their families without the so-called integration evaluation. The Danish People’s Party remains very critical of the changes and says that the Government is undermining the current rules. The Red-Green Alliance (Ø) is pleased but would like to see more changes in the same direction. 

Oulu opens a clinic for paperless persons


A clinic for undocumented immigrants will open in a couple of weeks. Four doctors and two nurses have volunteered to work for the clinic. – There are around twenty to thirty paperless immigrants in Oulu, says Hannu Rahikainen, Head of the Deaconess Institute in Oulu. A similar clinic in Helsinki treated some 300 paperless persons last year.

UDI expects to return Ethiopians soon


Despite the return agreement between Norway and Ethiopia, very few rejected asylum-seekers have returned to Ethiopia. One of the issues delaying the process is that the Norwegian police doubt it has the authority to take fingerprints of the returnees. The Norwegian Directorate for Immigration (UDI) views it as a practical problem, which will be solved soon. – Last week 68 people had sought to return voluntarily. As far as I know, the police have not carried out any forced returns yet, states Åsmund Eide from UDI.

Decrease in number of asylum-seekers


So far, 2,077 persons have applied for asylum in Norway this year, a decrease of three per cent compared to 2011. The most important source countries of asylum-seekers are Somalia, Afghanistan and Eritrea. The number of unaccompanied minors has also decreased in the first three months compared to the same period last year. Afghans constituted the largest group of unaccompanied minors with a total of 98 people seeking asylum. The Norwegian Directorate for Immigration (UDI) and the National Police Immigration Service (PU) have temporarily stopped giving financial aid to people returning to Belarus, and as a result the number of asylum-seekers from Belarus has decreased significantly.

Church of Norway deeply concerned about asylum policy


The Church of Norway’s recent church meeting showed an unanimous deep concern for the 450 children living as paperless immigrants in Norway. The church community is also concerned about converts being returned to countries where conversion is not accepted. – We expect the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) to listen to pastors, deaconesses and others who have thorough knowledge of the convert’s story of conversion when the credibility of the person is evaluated, states the Church of Norway.

Swedish Migration Board’s facilities face criticism


Two of the Swedish Migration Board’s facilities face criticism. One is a reception centre in Fellingsbro, which is specialised in accommodating pregnant asylum-seekers and asylum-seekers with children. Staff at the centre has sent a letter to the Government, informing that the infrastructure is not sufficient to meet the needs of the centre. The other case concerns an asylum unit in Boden. An investigation by the Parliamentary Ombudsmen criticises the unit for having long processing times and for how they conduct asylum cases of unaccompanied minors.

Green Party demands new law concerning family reunification


In 2011, the Green Party and the Government agreed upon the framework of a new immigration policy. The Green Party agreed to help the Government in order to secure the reunification of Somali families residing in Sweden with their children, but it has now emerged that the parties differ in their understanding of what they concluded. A promised alteration of the family reunification laws was never enacted. Instead the Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy argued that a precedence-setting case in the Migration Court of Appeal would be sufficient to secure the reunification of families. However, judges have interpreted the ruling differently, which has caused 100 cases to be rejected. Consequently, the Green Party is demanding a new law, which will secure the reunification of families.

Angelina Jolie gets new UNHCR role

UNHCR in the news  

For ten years, Angelina Jolie has been working as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, visiting refugee centres in countries such as Iraq, Pakistan and Haiti. She has now been appointed Special Envoy of High Commissioner António Guterres. In her new role, she will represent the organisation on a diplomatic level, where she will focus her efforts on large scale humanitarian crises, such as those gripping Somalia and Afghanistan. - I do not think you need a rocket scientist to see the benefits that she is bringing in terms of the attention she is getting for the plight of the world’s displaced, says Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for UNHCR in Geneva. - Angelina Jolie is very knowledgeable about displacement issues and has the ability to communicate in a way which raises interest and empathy. She is taken seriously by heads of state, says Hanne Mathisen, spokesperson for UNHCR in the Nordic countries. When asked if there can be a conflict between Angelina Jolie’s commercial interests and her work for the UN, Mathisen replies that it is a potential problem which applies to all Goodwill Ambassadors. - It is important that the person has integrity which does not disturb the tasks he or she is given and that the artistic work and family life do not overshadow this. It is our impression that Jolie has the necessary integrity - she is genuinely concerned with the issue and has been an amazing Goodwill Ambassador for us, Mathisen adds.

Refugee Woman of the Year in Uganda

UNHCR in the news  

Uganda has chosen its first Refugee Woman of the Year. The Finnish Refugee Council (FRC) has already awarded 15 refugee women in Finland and decided to hand out a similar award in Uganda where FRC has worked for a long time. FRC, UNHCR and Uganda’s ministry responsible for immigration were part of the award committee.

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