Norway government seeks tighter asylum rules

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway's government on Friday proposed emergency legislation to tighten its asylum rules after a rising number of people seeking protection entered the country in recent months. The Nordic country of 5.2 million people, a member of the passport-free Schengen area but not of the European Union, expects to receive 20,000-25,000 asylum applications this year, a number it had to revise upwards several times since August. Those numbers remain relatively modest compared with other European countries, with neighboring Sweden expected to receive 190,000 asylum applications this year. But the numbers are rising rapidly, particularly on Norway's Arctic border with Russia, where over 4,000 people have entered the country this year, up from 10 last year. The ruling minority coalition, made up of the center-right Conservatives and the anti-immigration Progress Party, wants the new rules to be passed by Parliament by next Friday. "The proposed legislative amendments will give the immigration authorities greater opportunity to refuse to process an asylum application if the asylum seeker has already resided in a safe third country," Justice Minister Anders Anundsen said in a statement. He added that the proposed changes would "enable the swift return to Russia of asylum seekers who have resided in Russia". Other proposals include the possibility to arrest and detain foreign nationals "in cases where it is most likely that their asylum applications will not be processed" or to impose a duty to report to authorities and stay in a specific place. "We are also proposing an amendment that will make it possible to set a shorter deadline for leaving Norway, or to request that the person concerned leaves Norway immediately," said Anundsen. "This will make it possible to return asylum seekers more swiftly." Afghans have overtaken Syrians as the biggest group of asylum seekers crossing Norway's remote Arctic frontier from Russia, even though many risk being sent back to Kabul, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) said last week. [IDnL8N130572]. UDI said many risked being flown back to Kabul, a city Norway considers relatively safe even though much of Afghanistan remains chronically unstable amid continued fighting between the Western-backed government and Taliban militants. It was not immediately clear whether the legislation would be passed in parliament, with no immediate reaction from two small centrist parties, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals, the government rely on to pass legislation. (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen)

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