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By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following interview we would like to introduce you to the organisation NOAS in Norway engaging for asylum seekers, by helping them according to a holistic approach. Would like to thank Viktoria for her time, and her important suggestions. For ProMosaik it is essential to talk to organizations supporting asylum seekers in different countries to compare approaches, and to get new impulses in our difficult times of war and forced migration.
What kind of services do you offer to migrants and asylum seekers in Norway?
The Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) is an independent membership organization working to protect the rights of asylum seekers in Norway. NOAS’ main activities are to give information and legal aid to asylum seekers, and advocacy. For instance, NOAS runs an information and counselling program directed at newly arrived asylum seekers in Norway. We provide information on the topics of the asylum process, criteria for protection and additional rights and responsibilities. We argue that ensuring that the right information and counselling are given to asylum seekers by organization asylum seekers have confidence in, will contribute to justice for asylum seekers. This is NOAS’ starting point for running this programme.
In addition, NOAS also works to ensure that asylum applications are made as clear as possible, so that the immigration authorities have a better basis for making the right decisions. We also consider whether NOAS can contribute to the trial of cases in court.
How do you get in touch with refugees and migrants that could benefit from your help?
NOAS communicates with asylum seekers by telephone, email, our website and personal visits to our office in Oslo. We are the only organization in Norway specializing exclusively in rights for asylum seekers and thus have considerable recognition rate. We conduct, however, outreach to asylum seekers and other actors important for our work through for example contact with the reception centers throughout Norway. Additionally, our counselling program that I mentioned above, allows us to introduce ourselves to all new asylum seekers by their arrival in Norway.
What are the main obstacles that people face once arrived in Norway as asylum seekers or migrants?
In general, we can say that the main obstacle for asylum seekers these days is the long waiting time for the decision in their asylum application. This, of course, varies both with regards to individual cases and the country of origin, but an estimate of a year has recently become a norm. This results in great insecurities for the asylum seekers and contributes to mental and physical health problems, limited future prospects, difficulties with regards to family reunification and slow integration, to mention a few. NOAS works actively to change this uncertain situation for asylum seekers and provides the authorities with reports and other important sources of information to influence the decision-making.
Do you carry out any raising awareness activity? If yes, how have the local communities been responsive so far?
Although NOAS works mainly with individual persons by providing them with counselling and legal advice, we also invest great amount of time in spreading awareness about relevant topics concerning asylum by writing reports, conducting campaigns and presentations. You can find an overview of our activities on our website and facebook page. The respond from the local communities has been positive and we are reaching out to many more people and actors every time.
Is racism a major obstacle to the social inclusion of immigrants?
In 2015, the UN has confronted Norway with questions regarding racism and how it is tackled on the national basis. The UN expert emphasized that racism is a great issue in Norway but is often downplayed and referred to as discrimination. When it comes to asylum seekers, there are several points of concern such as access to education and labor market, long waiting time for obtaining permanent residency permit and use of detention centers for adults as well as children. The complete reports can be found here: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/TreatyBodyExternal/Countries.aspx?CountryCo de=NOR&Lang=EN
Do you cooperate with local authorities and institutions? If yes, how?
On 1 January 2005, the system that ensured asylum seekers free legal aid in first instance, that is, before asylum seekers receive a decision from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), was replaced with the information and counselling program that NOAS runs, on commission from the UDI. Within the scope of this program cooperation with the immigration authorities takes place. However, as an NGO for asylum seekers in Norway we cooperate mostly with other organizations such as Amnesty International, Norwegian People`s Aid, Norwegian refugee council, Red Cross, Save the Children, UNHCR etc.