Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sent out to nothing - and?

I've been thinking about these forced returns of asylum seekers that have happened in the past few days, and I feel like writing down some of these probably not very profound thoughts. Be warned: I'm not very sympathetic towards the plight of these people.

Background: Kosovar Serbians have lived in Norway for a few years, have applied for asylum and had their applications denied, have refused to return voluntarily and have now been forcibly thrown out. I do agree that maybe having the cops turn up in people's homes in the middle of the night is rather extreme ... but it is also true what the Justice Department (from now on JD) says - that if people know the cops are coming, they may hide away, and that can't be allowed to be an option. So.

First of all, I have to say that I'm having a really hard time accepting the claims the returnees are making that this was such a tremendous horrible shock. How can it be a surprise, let alone a shock? They have applied for asylum, their applications have been denied - they have appealed this decision, the appeal has been denied - they have been instructed to return home - they have refused to do so - what the hell did they think would happen? That the JD would just say Oh, OK, since you don't want to leave we'll just let you stay? Obviously that is not an option. The way in which it happened might have been a shock, but the fact that they are now being forcibly returned can't possibly come as a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. I don't accept that.

Second, I do understand that it's traumatic for the children to have to go through something like this. However, I think the way the parents handle it is probably the determining factor. Kids are resilient. And it's also, unfortunately, the kind of situation where something's gotta give. Yes, it's sad for the children, tragic, whatever. But we cannot under any circumstance and for any reason accept anchor babies. That's just the bottom line that we cannot deviate from. Because the fact of the matter is that everyone can't come to Norway. We're a small nation with limited resources (the Petroleum Fund is a collection of numbers, don't start with that richest country in the world shit) and we cannot help everyone. Anchor babies cannot be accepted and we just have to deal with that as best we can.

Third, it's been said that these people are being 'sent back with nothing'. Yees ... but whose fault is that? Isn't the practice that if you return voluntarily, the JD gives you a certain sum of money, I'm not sure how much, but a sum intended for you to take with you to help you land on your feet, so to speak, when you get back to wherever you came from. However, if you refuse to go, and you're then forcibly returned (which you are supposed to be), you lose the right to this money. So by refusing to return, they put themselves in the situation that when they were returned, they would get nothing. Like I said, my sympathy is limited.

Fourth, the personal trauma that is so unbearable here. I do understand that it's a bad situation for those involved ... (to the point that I can understand it when I've never experienced such a thing myself) and I understand the local people who don't understand why 'these law-abiding taxpayers have to go when criminals get to stay'. I understand that emotional reaction ... but it is an emotional reaction, which the law cannot take into account. (Plus, now we're sending the criminals out too, so the argument loses at least one leg.) The mayor of Vadsø has been on the news saying that it's such a loss for their community ... and I do understand that, it's a small place and probably not that easy to get people to move there. But this is not a matter for the law or for the JD. And in any case, how impossibly traumatic is it really? I'm having a hard time with the arguments being used here. It's so horrible to have to go to Serbia, because they don't belong there, it's not where they're from, they'll be strangers there, they don't know anybody, they don't have anything there, etc. But wasn't all this true when they came to Norway, too? Yet they are so happy here that they can't bear to leave ... even if everything they say about Serbia now was true about Norway then. The one family that has been in the news the most have a little boy, I think he's five, who now will be damaged for life by this experience, apparently. But they have an older boy also, who was similarly little when they were uprooted from Kosovo, and the mother herself has been on TV saying how well he's doing and how well-adjusted he is. So, again, how is this different between displacement #1 and displacement #2? Where does the difference lie?

If I was going to be mean, I would say that the only difference I can discern is in how much financial support Norway is able to offer new arrivals in comparison with Serbia. But, like I said, that's if I was going to be mean.

Fifth, and last, what this all boils down to is the simple fact that the term asylum actually has a specific meaning. And it doesn't mean that if your life is difficult you have the right to start over someplace else. What it means is that if you are being persecuted you may have the right to protection. (Note that this doesn't apply if you're being 'persecuted' by the police for actual crimes you have committed.) If you are not a victim of unfair persecution, you don't have the right to claim asylum. So it's pointless to apply for it if you don't have the grounds to do so ... and it's beyond pointless to be aggravated when your groundless application is denied. Accepting such groundless applications can and will do serious damage to the entire institution of asylum ... not to mention to the situations of those who really truly need the protection that that institution offers.

Poverty is sad, but it doesn't equate to persecution.

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