Fear of terrorist groups and militias is the most common reason given by Iraqis applying for protection in Norway.
Few appeals are granted. In many cases, appeals are rejected because we do not believe the applicants’ statements. In other cases, the applicants can obtain protection in other parts of Iraq than the area they come from.
What do we consider?
Many of those who apply for protection in Norway refer to the security situation in their local area. They may be afraid of the ISIL terrorist group or Shia Muslim militia groups.
Others say they are at risk because they belong to an ethnic/religious minority. Private conflicts and honour-related violence are also given as reasons for Iraqis applying for protection in Norway. We also see some cases where the applicant is in fear of persecution because he/she has converted, or because of his/her sexual orientation.
In such cases, UNE will consider whether the applicants can obtain protection in other parts of their home country.
Everyone who applies for asylum in Norway is obliged to assist in clarifying their identity. Applicants who have a passport must hand this in. Other documents may also be accepted as proof of identity. Applicants who do not have ID documents are obliged to do their best to obtain such documents.
We conclude that an applicant's identity is either substantiated or not substantiated:
Substantiated identity: We believe that it is probable that the applicant is who he says he is. Documents and the applicant's statement can help to substantiate their identity. As a rule, the identity of the applicant must be substantiated before a residence permit can be granted.
Not substantiated: We believe that it is not probable that the applicant is who he says he is. This is the case when the applicant has not helped to establish who he is and where he comes from, by, for example, providing incorrect information. The reason we believe the identity has not been substantiated must always be included in the decision.
Applicants often have ID documents, such as a national ID card, nationality certificate or passport. Iraqi documents alone are not credible enough to document the applicants’ identity. They may help to substantiate the applicant’s claim that he/she is from Iraq, but they are not sufficient as documentation.
The authorities issue biometric passports. Iraqis in Norway can apply for a passport via the embassy in Stockholm.
We believe that people who hold passports are probably Iraqi citizens, but it is uncertain whether the information in the passport is correct. The passports are issued on the basis of additional documents which have a low degree of reliability. Therefore, we cannot conclude that the identity has been clarified even though the applicant has a passport.
We rarely grant protection in cases where the UDI has rejected an application. We reverse decisions in a small number of cases because we believe that the applicant cannot obtain protection elsewhere in their home country.
Sometimes, we grant a permit on grounds of strong humanitarian considerations, normally children’s attachment to Norway.
We use many different sources. Much of the information we use has been collected by Landinfo, a unit that prepares reports on topics that are important for the UDI and UNE. In addition, the UNCHR’s recommendations are important. We also read reports from UNAMI and the Institute for the Study of War, and keep up to date with reports in the media and from other organisations.
In addition to the applicants’ statements, we always consider whether the area they come from is so dangerous that they need protection. We call this an assessment of the security situation. Both international case law and decisions made by several of UNE’s Grand Boards show that there is a high threshold for granting a permit on the basis of the security situation in a country.
In order to grant a permit on this basis, the general level of violence must be so high that any person will face a real danger simply by being in the area. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has stated several times that this will only be relevant in extremely violent and turbulent situations.
The security situation in Iraq is not so dangerous that everybody from the country is entitled to protection. Our position is that applicants can return to most areas in Iraq.
Many applicants are Kurds from the Kurdish autonomous region (KRI). The situation is stable in this area, and has been stable over time. That is why we do not issue permits based on the security situation to anyone from this area. After the referendum on Kurdish independence in the fall of 2017, there were clashes between the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga. However, the situation stabilized quickly, and did not impact our assessment of the security situation.
Some applicants come from the southern parts of Iraq. There are not many attacks in this area that are focused against the civilian population. Hence, we do not issue permits based on the security situation to people from this area.
We do not issue permits based on the security situation to applicants from Bagdad. A Grand Board in UNE assessed the city's security situation in June 2015, at at time when violence and frequency in terrorist attacks was at a much higher level than today. The Grand Board decided that the overall security situation was not dangerous enough to issue permits based on the security situation. Since 2015, the situation in Bagdad has improved significantly, and there are relatively few terrorist attacks and other security incidents.
We have a few applicants from the provinces of Anbar, Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Diyala. Some areas inside these provinces are more dangerous than others. ISIS did previously control some areas within the centrally located provinces, but not anymore. The fact that ISIS were previously in control does not mean that persons from these areas cannot return today. In each individual case, UNE makes an assessment of whether or not return is safe.