We are victims of a wrong asylum policy: Walid Almusawi Iraqi asylum seeker in Norway
By Prabalta Rijal
For the past several years, millions of people have been displaced from and within Iraq as a result of military operations--firstly the Iran-Iraq war and later the Sadam Regime. At the end of 2015, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) began a military operation to enter and retake control of parts of the country under the control of armed opposition groups, especially in the Anbar governorate. Civilians were caught in the crossfire, while many were displaced. According to NRC's findings, people are living in insufficient shelter conditions. Most families have depleted all their savings and face difficulties in finding livelihood opportunities, along with rising rental costs, high-security risks ,continue to worsen their situation-- forcing them out of the country. According to NRC, in November alone, close to 50,000 people had fled Mosul since the military offensive began on 17 October to recapture the city from ISIS.
The Oslo Times Chief International Correspondent, Prabalta Rijal, caught up with an Iraqi asylum seeker Walid Almusawi, who was forced to flee his country after a failed attempt to kill him because of his work with the US forces in Iraq and his work as team leader for a company that protected foreign nationals in the country, for an exclusive interview on the condition of Iraqi refugees in Norway.
Could you tell us how many Iraqi nationals have applied for asylum in Norway this year?
According to UDI the number of the Iraqis who applied for asylum in Norway since January 2016 was 2108 but only 157 of them were accepted as asylum seekers.
What reason has UDI given for the rejection of applicants, applying for refuge in the country?
The reasons are different from person to person, but at the end of the day the reasons which UDI is giving are not reasonable, for an example, we had a friend who got rejected because he didn’t know when is he going to die if he is sent back to Iraq, and in the other cases UDI has termed Iraq as safe or specifically Baghdad. They have also chosen certain cities in Iraq as safe, as safe country and if we were safe in our country, we wouldn’t be here begging for asylum in someone elses country. The situation in Iraq is well known to everyone, news of terror attacks and the stronghold of terrorist groups like ISIS has completely disrupted civilian life, as such groups prey on the innocent. The ISIS and the war has put the life of every Iraqi citizen in the danger.
What are the living conditions in Norway like for asylum seekers?
The Iraqi asylum seekers who are living in Norway currently are going through some hard times, since we are kept waiting for a very long before the interview and sometimes have to wait for as long as 1 year just for the interview, many of us cannot apply for work since we are not allowed to work without a permit and for a permit we need our passports.
According to UDI, you have to have a passport to have the right to work,but everybody knows how we crossed over into Europe in search of safety, many of us had to cross over on boats and during this journey through rough sea waters and then the jungles and big camps keeping our passports safe was not always easy and there are many of us here without passports. All we are hoping for is to be allowed to work while we wait for our interview, at least it would help lessen our problems a little during the waiting period.
In 2012 the Iraqi parliament had decided not to accept any nationals deported from Europe, have the rules in Iraq changed? What is the situation for deportees in Iraq like these days?
The law has not changed and it still stands. The first thing the Iraqi officials do once you are deported is beat you up, before insulting you and throwing you into prison and after that, no one knows what will happen to you next, especially to those of us who have stood up against corrupted politicians and the religious parties there.
From our understanding, Norway only rejects applications of individuals who do not require protection . Are the applicants who have been rejected require protection in your view, or have their applications been misjudged by the authorities? (Why/Why not)
Honestly, I don’t know each person who has been rejected, but those who I knew really did need protection which they didn’t get and they are in danger of being killed as soon as they are sent back. The asylum policy in Norway focuses on accepting very few applicants and unfortunately, we are the victims of this policy even if we need protection desperately.
Do you think the reason why the applicants have been rejected is because of the fear of the growing terror attacks across Europe?
I believe the Norwegian government can easily identify whether or not the applicant is a terrorist or not. Treating all refugees as suspects or terrorists is very wrong and it is against all the norms of justice in a democratic and multicultural society.
What kind of problems are there with Norway's readmission policy of asylum seekers?
The problem like I said is that these policies are based on accepting the least possible number of refugees and rejecting as many people as possible. Also, the people who have been rejected are not treated like humans but rather like numbers on a sheet of paper. The Norwegian government should remember that there was a day when Norwegians themselves too were refugees and many Norwegian grandfathers and grandmothers still remember the hardships they endured in those days very well, so the government should at least have some sympathy towards refugees that are coming into their country for help.
What kind of job opportunities do migrant families have in Norway, could you tell us a little bit about the steps taken by Norway to integrate migrant families into the Norwegian society?
The refugee families almost have no opportunity to work since most of them have lost their passports on the way to Norway, it's very hard to keep your passport safe if you are crossing the sea and then crossing nine other countries before finally reaching Norway, and even if some of us managed to keep our passports safe, finding work here is very competitive and we are hardly accepted for a job. There are no provisions to help us look for a job.
Until now we haven't received any help in regards to blending into the Norwegian society, even if we are only awaiting acceptance, I think we should atleast be given an opportunity help us normalize or lives to a certain extent and I don’t know if this is going to happen in the future or not.
Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Yes, I would like to tell the readers that I was not born as a refugee, I was just a normal person going through a normal life, and I didn’t notice the word refugee in my dictionary until I became one, and my work as a translator with the United States forces and as a team leader in a security company to protect the foreign companies in Iraq is what put my life in danger and made me make this journey across the sea to Europe, I am not a suspect and not a dangerous person, I am just a normal guy looking for safety for his family and a chance to live in peace again, I hope you will hear our plight.
The Oslo Times International News Network