The Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) has earlier this year held 20 hearings in individual cases concerning foreign nationals who arrived via Storskog border crossing to seek asylum in Norway.

The hearings were held to determine whether the persons in question can safely be returned to Russia. Hearings have been held both for families and individuals, about 40 persons in total. Most of the cases concerned Syrian nationals (last updated on 6 July 2016).

In 12 of the 20 hearings, UNE reversed the UDI’s decision not to consider the applications on their merits. These asylum cases will therefore be considered in Norway and were returned to the UDI as the decisions were made for consideration on their merits. This means that UNE has not concluded as to whether the persons in question are entitled to protection in Norway; that is for the UDI to assess.

UNE has carried out an overall assessment of several individual and concrete circumstances in the cases as stipulated in the applicable regulatory framework and instructions. In accordance with the instructions, UNE has assessed the need for protection in the country of origin in cases where the grounds for residence in Russia are uncertain.

In cases where the appellant’s Russian visa has expired or lapsed, UNE has deemed it unlikely that the appellant could obtain residence on other grounds than asylum.

As regards the cases where decisions have been reversed, several boards have based their conclusion on access to the asylum system in Russia being difficult and on it being uncertain whether the quality of the asylum assessments is adequate. Importance has also been attached to information received that some Syrian nationals have been deported from Russia to their home country. UNE therefore concluded that a return to Russia could entail a violation of the Immigration Act Section 73, a provision that provides absolute protection against refoulement in cases where a person risks abuse if returned.

In the cases where UNE upheld the UDI’s rejections, importance was often attached to the appellant being resourceful because he/she has stayed in Russia for a prolonged period. The appellant was thus deemed to be well equipped to navigate the Russian asylum system. Moreover, UNE deemed the risk of being deported from Russia to be so low as to be theoretical. Such a low risk does not provide a basis for protection against refoulement to Russia, and the previous decisions to refuse to consider these cases on their merits were therefore upheld in these cases.