Norway's right-leaning government on Tuesday proposed tougher asylum rules for family reunification and permanent residency, in its bid to make the country "less attractive" for those not in "real need" of protection.
Sylvi Listhaug, the new immigration and integration minister, said the measures, totalling "40 minor and major changes," were necessary.
She cited projections by the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration that the Scandinavian country could receive between 10,000 and 100,000 asylum bids in 2016.
"If the bids reach the latter number, that could have extreme effects on our welfare system," she told a news conference.
Norway has registered about 30,000 asylum bids this year, she said.
Listhaug said one of the proposals was to extend the period for applying for permanent residency from three to five years.
An applicant wishing to reunite with family members, and bring them to Norway will be required to have a higher annual income. The minimum requirement would be 305,200 kroner (35,000 dollars) a year, compared to the current level of 250,000 kroner, according to the proposal.
Consideration will also be made whether other family members have stronger ties in another country. For instance, if an applicant's family has fled from a neighbouring country and settled in Turkey, it might make more sense for the reunification to take place in Turkey rather than that the family comes to Norway, Listhaug said.
Unaccompanied minors who have been granted protection will be reassessed when they become adults, Listhaug said.
Norway was also to review its refugee definition that was widened in 2008 compared to more strict UN definitions, for instance offering refuge to individuals who risk the death penalty or torture if sent back to their home country.
Other government agencies, political parties and non-government organizations have until February 9 to comment on the proposals before the government prepares a bill.
Listhaug said she hoped the bill would be passed in the spring of this year, which is when asylum flows typically rise.
She said some of the proposals were based on a parliamentary agreement reached in November with the main opposition Labour Party and two centrist parties that provide backing for the right-leaning minority government.
Listhaug is a member of the populist Progress Party, a junior partner in the coalition led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg's Conservative Party.
The initial reactions were critical from, among others, the leader of the Christian Democrats, one of the two centrist parties that supports the government in parliament.
A spokesman for the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers said the moves could also violate international conventions if people are denied the right to apply for asylum, news agency NTB reported.