Human Rights in Europe - Review of 2019 - Norway [EUR 01/2098/2020]


As in previous years, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers continued to be restricted and Afghan asylum-seekers still faced forced returns to Afghanistan. Serious concerns remained about the prevalence of, and inadequate state response to, rape and other violence against women, with the legal definition of rape still falling short of Norway’s international human rights law obligations.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Government statistics published in January 2020 stated that 2305 people had claimed asylum -in 2019, the lowest number since 1997. The biggest groups were Syrian, Turkish and Eritrean nationals. Afghan nationals continued to face obstacles in accessing asylum as well as a risk of forced return to Afghanistan. The Abbasi family – a mother and three children who had lived in Norway for seven years – were taken from their home by the police on 15 June in the middle of night and flown to Turkey in transit to Afghanistan. The mother, who was unconscious throughout the flight, was returned to Norway alone due to her deteriorating health. The three siblings, one of them a minor, were returned to Norway after the Afghan authorities refused to accept them.

During the two first weeks of August, the Norwegian registered vessel Ocean Viking – operated by Leger Uten Grenser (Norwegian Médecins Sans Frontières) and SOS Méditerranée – rescued 356 migrants and asylum-seekers off the coast of Libya. After 14 days at sea the passengers were permitted to disembark in Malta. The Norwegian government refused to take anyone to Norway. Six EU countries took responsibility to receive them instead.

Although the Immigration Appeal Board had re-evaluated its decision 29 October 2018 who had been deported in 2016, and had granted him a stay and working permit, he had not been able to return. He was still in prison in Rwanda, where in March 2018 he had been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for articles that he had posted online criticizing the Rwandan regime.

Violence against women and girls

Gender-based violence, including rape, remained widespread and survivors continue to experience significant barriers accessing justice.[i] These include the Penal Code definition of rape which imposes a limited set of qualifying circumstances and is not consistent with a consent-based approach, and ) Norway’s obligations under the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence ( Istanbul Convention. The law also affects the wider understanding in society of what constitutes rape.

Lack of capacity and weaknesses in police investigations also resulted in few cases being successfully prosecuted. From 2008-2017 between 75% and 80% of rape cases reported and investigated by the police were closed by the public prosecutor and never reached the stage of prosecution.

Discrimination - statelessness

The Government proposed to amend legislation to end the possibility of a child’s citizenship being revoked because of of the Immigration Law committed by their parents and grandparents. This will include persons above the age of 18 if they gained Norwegian citizenship as minors. Revoking such citizenship will still be possible if a court decides the person’s attachment to Norway is very limited.

International justice

The case was still pending of a Rwandan national accused of complicity in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who had been released in March 2018 after four years in custody. The Ministry of Justice had concluded he could be extradited to Rwanda but further investigation concluded two prosecution witnesses were not sufficiently credible.


[i] Europe: Time for Change: Justice for rape survivors in the Nordic countries (EUR 01/0089/2019)