NOAS on the National Budget for 2013: Children and Legal Protection:

NOAS feel it is important that the government increase the pot to free legal aid and increase the resources to the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE), focusing particularly on children. Legal protection for all asylum seekers and acting in the best interests of the child is important when the procedures will get more efficient and more people will be forcibly returned.

The Immigration Appeals Board will receive 25 million kroners more in 2013. The government has required that UNE cuts down the time of the asylum process and prioritize cases where children are involved. NOAS emphasize the importance of strengthening both UNE’s expertise on children and children’s right to express views freely in all matters affecting the child, and in the management of residence permit for long remaining children.

After the government’s tightening of the immigration policy in 2008-2009, NOAS have noticed an increase in the number of asylum seekers who need legal aid and free counseling. From an annual average on 600-700 cases up to 2009, NOAS has in 2010 and 2011 hovered around 1200 new cases annually. For 2012, NOAS are likely to get about 1400 cases.

NOAS visit reception centers across the country. There NOAS meet asylum seekers who have not grasped what has happened with their asylum case. As a result, in cases where refusal has been received, asylum seekers are less able to make good decisions for themselves and their family.

Currently, asylum seekers do not receive the decision from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI). Some asylum seekers get the decision passed on by their lawyers, while many get their decision read out loud over the telephone, by an interpreter. Many asylum seekers find the five hours of legal assistance of little value in order to formulate an appeal to UNE. Altogether, this makes many asylum seekers uninformed of why they received a negative decision from the UDI and where in the asylum process they are. This in turn affects the understanding of what sort of information are relevant for their case, their capability to acquire such information to the appeal to UNE and how they are dealing with their own situation after a rejection.

Based on this, NOAS is disappointed over the fact that the Department of Justice in 2012 cut the funding to our legal aid work. According to the proposed budget for the judiciary the Ministry will announce legal aid funding and prepare detailed guidelines for grants for special legal aid measures. NOAS encourage the Minister of Justice, Grete Faremo, to ensure the availability of free legal aid to asylum seekers in the increased legal aid pot for 2013.

Translated by Bettina Blakstad.