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Norway: Government Plans to Crack Down on Returning Foreign Convicts

(Mar. 11, 2013) The Norwegian government is reforming two aspects of immigration policy related to foreign convicts in the country. As reported on February 22, 2013, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security is formulating changes in the law in order to send returning foreign convicts back out of <?Norway and to enhance punishments against the offenders. In addition, efforts have been made to conclude agreements with other countries that enable immediate deportation of the foreign jurisdiction's citizens who have been convicted of crimes in Norway, to serve their prison terms in the home country. (Nina Berglund, Deported Criminals Keep Coming Back, VIEWS AND NEWS FROM NORWAY (Feb. 22, 2013).)

On June 7, 2011, the Norwegian Parliament ratified legislation to accord the police extended powers to send foreign inmates back to Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania, under bilateral agreements signed with these countries. (Michael Sandelson, Police to Expel More Eastern Europeans, THE FOREIGNER (June 7, 2011).) The government is also making an effort to apprehend such persons who try to return to Norway by crossing Norway’s long border with Sweden. (Deported Criminals Keep Coming Back, supra.)

Foreigners in Norway’s Prisons

Norwegian Broadcasting reported in June 2011 that about 30% of convicts serving prison terms in Norway were foreign citizens, with those from Poland leading the list, “followed by Lithuania, Nigeria, Iraq and Romania.” (Nina Berglund, New Effort to Expel Foreign Convicts, VIEWS AND NEWS FROM NORWAY (June 7, 2011).) In December 2012, the Vardåsen Prison, specially redesigned to hold male foreign convicts and able to accommodate 97 men, opened in Kongsvinger. (Prison Opens for Foreign Convicts, VIEWS AND NEWS FROM NORWAY (Dec. 17, 2012).)

Deportation and Re-Entry of Foreign Convicts

Expulsion from Norway is governed under Chapter 8 of the Immigration Act. Section 66 prescribes, among other grounds for deporting foreigners, that:

A foreign national without a residence permit may be expelled: …

(c) when the foreign national has while in the realm received a penalty or special sanction for an offence which is punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding three months, or has on several occasions in the course of the last three years received prison sentences. (Act of 15 May 2008 on the Entry of Foreign Nationals into the Kingdom of Norway and Their Stay in the Realm (Immigration Act) (translation updated as of Jan. 1, 2013), ¶ 1 § 66, GOVERNMENT.NO; see also Expulsion, UDI [the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration]; Case Procedure – Expulsion, UDI [diagram] (last visited Mar. 5, 2013).)

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reported that, in 2011, 794 foreign convicts were deported, based on an innreiseforbud, a formal order disallowing re-entry to Norway. In 2012, similar orders were issued for another 1,019 foreign convicts, as part of a concerted government effort to enforce the law allowing expulsion when foreigners have committed crimes. (Deported Criminals Keep Coming Back, supra.) Police later discovered, however, that nearly 500 of the foreign convicts deported after serving their prison terms reappeared in Norway in 2011 and 2012. The government had allegedly withheld statistics on its problems in controlling and enforcing the deportation drive due to considerations of “internal case handling,” and the numbers on returnees were released only after the filing of a complaint about the attempt to keep the figures secret. (Id.)

Even though the deportation rate of foreigners convicted of crimes in Norway has been much higher in recent years, statistics that had formerly been withheld by the government indicate “that hundreds of them have managed to return despite being officially barred from re-entry. They’re often discovered only when they commit new crimes and are arrested once again, but sometimes not even then.” (Id.)

According to police lawyer Kjell Johan Abrahamsen, the foreign convicts who return to the country face a punishment that is “simply too mild,” and re-incarceration in a Norwegian prison does not faze them. Abrahamsen stated, “Norway has nice prisons, and they know that inmates also get NOK 57 (around USD 10) a day.” (Id.)