Norway to resume returning rejected asylum seekers to Russia

Norway has agreed with Russia to resume returning some asylum seekers whose applications were rejected in the Scandinavian country, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK reported Wednesday.

Returnees that have residency permits in Russia will be transported back by plane, said Thor Arne Aass, a director general at the Norwegian Justice Ministry.

"The number is about 200 to 300 people," he told NRK after talks in Moscow.

Norway registered over 31,100 asylum bids in 2015, a new high, with many migrants entering via the Storskog border crossing on Norway's land border with Russia, high above the Arctic Circle.

Russia has rejected transports by bus via the land route, citing lack of reception centres in Murmansk on the Russian side of the border.

Almost 5,500 asylum seekers arrived via Storskog last year. Many crossed the border by bicycle because of a border treaty between the two countries that does not allow people to cross the border on foot.

An initial group of 200 were sent back by bus in January before Russia halted that option two weeks ago.

Recently, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said about 700 people could be returned, citing people who had residency in Russia or multiple-entry visas.

Wednesday's talks involved officials from the Norwegian ministries of justice and foreign affairs, and Russia's migration authority, NRK said.

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration said 42 nationalities were registered last year at Storskog. The largest single group were Syrians, numbering 1,706 people, followed by bids from Afghanistan (1,628), Iraq (403), stateless (347), Pakistan (300) and Egypt (285).

Last update: Wed, 03/02/2016 - 21:19

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