Thursday, January 13, 2011

White Woman Syndrome

Although not 'missing' this time, but still, WWS seems to be what is kicking in all over Norwegian media right now. Maria Amelie (not her real name, which she has withheld from authorities since she arrived in 2002), an asylum seeker from Russia who has been staying illegally in this country for going on eight years, was finally arrested by police last night and will now be deported. Against her will, obviously ... if she was willing to leave, she would have done so when obliged to by the denial of her family's application for asylum.

There are several unusual things about this particular illegal immigrant (of which we have thousands upon thousands in this country - and I have to say that as a general rule the fact that our police aren't able to find and deport all of them is no reason to not deport the ones they do find) which her many defenders eagerly use to argue her case. She has learned perfect Norwegian, she has managed to get higher education - a Master's degree in some technological field - and she has worked umpteen hours as a volunteer for a couple of music festivals. In other words, she is exactly the kind of immigrant we want. She is a resource. We should be throwing citizenship at her! But no, she has to go and pieces of shit like Mullah Krekar get to say. Boo hiss, what a retarded country Norway is.

I won't say much about Krekar, that is a whole other blog post ... but I am afraid that those who think that if only the Progress Party were in power now, he would be out on his head and Maria Amelie would get to stay with no problems have it rather backwards. Their situations arise from different legal realities. Nobody wants Krekar here, come on. But we can't kick him out because of international obligations we have entered into voluntarily ... legal frameworks that deal with human rights and prohibit us from sending people out to where they risk capital punishment. These would still be in place, and would in all likelihood not be removed, under a Progress Party government. Personally I disagree with this as a matter of principle - I oppose the death penalty, but I also believe in the rights of sovereign states to institute and uphold their own laws. I don't think Iraq should have capital punishment on the books, but it is their choice to do so, and their right to punish their own citizens according to their own laws. If Krekar is guilty of such offenses under Iraqi law, that is his affair and not ours. But I digress. His situation is a paradox. His presence here is deeply offensive, but it is not relevant to Maria Amelie's situation.

Her difficulties stem from the fact that she is an asylum seeker who does not have the right to claim asylum. I've written about this before, and it's still just as simple as it was then. If you can prove that you are persecuted for some specific and objectively defined reasons, then you have the right to protection from your persecutors - ie, asylum. If you are not persecuted, you do not have the right to asylum. This is so incredibly simple to understand. If A, then B. If not A, then not B. In the case of Maria Amelie and her parents, there is no A, therefore, they have no right to B.

Where are her parents, by the way? They're still here, also illegal immigrants. Letting their daughter be sent back to Russia alone? Charming.

Anyway. This really is pretty simple. This woman doesn't have the right to asylum, she has been informed of this and has been instructed to leave the country (no doubt under threat of deportation; a threat which, if not explicit, is in any case completely obvious to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention) but has refused to do so. For whatever reason, she has over the past few months made herself into something of a celebrity, publishing and publicizing a book about her life (I haven't read this book - yet? - but it seems to have some lacunas). This was obviously rather risky. The police read the newspapers too. Last night she reaped the result of her choice to be high profile. A choice which in itself may be laudable, but which she must always have known carried some very specific risks.

I do agree that her situation must be very difficult. However, she has largely made it so herself - she has nothing to return to in Russia, she claims (she also claims to not be a Russian citizen, a claim disputed by Russian authorities, in fact) but how is this not due to the fact that she has refused to return there for seven years? Yes, she was only 16 when she arrived here, brought by her parents. But that was nine years ago - for the past seven years she has been entirely responsible for her own actions. At no time for the past seven and a half years has she ever had the legal right to remain in this country. She speaks Russian, Norwegian and no doubt English; she has a good education. She is young, strong and healthy. Of course she has something to return to in Russia. She has the chance to make a life there and make valuable contributions there - or she has the choice to return there and apply for a work permit in this country, so that she can return here legally. Something she should probably have done years ago, before - let's be honest - defrauding Norwegian tax payers of probably millions of crowns by getting an education she in fact had no right to.

I'm coming across as a callous bitch right now, I'm aware of that ... but that's the thing, the law is a callous bitch, and it has to be. That is how it ensures us all of our rights, and how it prevents the system that has created it from being exploited. An Amnesty representative was on the Daily Review tonight saying that the authorities' logic of making an example of Maria Amelie is just a scare tactic - letting her stay will absolutely not create an avalanche of illegals trying to trick the system by evading the police for long enough and then getting to stay despite having no right to do so. Sorry, Amnesty, I don't buy that. In the past, when we have had high numbers of immigrants from certain countries where basically no one has a right to asylum, information campaigns in those countries have had the effect of strongly reducing or almost removing those numbers. What is the reason that the opposite won't happen? Why should we risk it?

We have a rule in Norway that if you don't have the right to asylum, we can still let you stay, for what is called 'humanitarian reasons'. This may happen if you have what the authorities deem a particular connection to Norway, for instance. A lot of people are saying that Maria Amelie has such a connection, and therefore she should be allowed to stay. But her connection has no foundation in law. These people who defend her so strongly - do they really wish that such individuals as her should be exempt from the rule of the law?

I venture to say that they do not. In fact I am rather certain that many of these people are the very same who insist that the law be applied to these illegals, these criminals, these people who don't belong here. Why wish, even demand, an exception for this particular person? White Woman Syndrome. She is young, pretty, white, articulate, now even a celebrity of sorts. If this exact same situation had happened to a bearded, brown-skinned, Muslim-looking man, I'm sure his defenders would have numbered only a fraction of hers.

Which is exactly why we cannot let our emotions and our personal opinions decide in these matters. Justice for Maria Amelie, because we feel compassion for her, we can identify with her? No. The law must decide. That is the only way in which we can hope to achieve true justice.

You can read the final denial of appeal here. Maria Amelie's supporters must have leaked this document to the media - blacking out her real name, if that is her real name, but leaving the name of the bureaucrat who signed the document. Low blow.


Anonymous said...

Hello. I just found this journal by chance, looking through the links on the Maria Amelie case. I am a Russian and write this from Russia. There has been some information about this case in Russia, although I can not say that most of people here really care.

I just would say that for me she sounds absolutely as a foreign person. Life in Russia and life in Western Europe is two very different things. You need a different set of skills to survive and prosper here. I studied and worked in the West, then returned back -- and it was extremely difficult for me to adjust back. It took years. Even taking into account that I spent my formative years here, and still had the family, friends, connections, etc. etc.

So what this girl would do here I have no idea. I don't know how Norwegian she is, but culturally and socially she is not a Russian. On the top of that she does not have any support network, so her future here is bleak.

Leisha Camden said...

Thank you for your comment ... it's very interesting to get input from other parts of the world, especially on a post like this. I understand what you're saying, and I'm sure it's correct. The problem is that it isn't relevant. None of the problems you mention have anything to do with this case. Maria Amelia/Madina Salamova came to Norway as an asylum seeker. The only thing that is relevant to her case is whether she is a victim of persecution in her country of origin (being a potential victim of crime isn't enough, because crime is everywhere). She isn't, so she doesn't have the right to asylum. While your arguments are cetainly true, they're also irrelevant.

Thank you for reading and commenting, I really appreciate your input.