Before Christmas 2017, the Storting adopted a legislative amendment that revoked the Ministry’s extended right of instruction, which has been in effect for two years.
The amendment came into force on 15 December 2017. This means that the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) is now as independent of political control as it was when it was established in 2001.
‘Independence strengthens UNE's reputation as an appellate body, so I consider this a good thing. Independence builds trust among the people whose cases we consider,’ says Director of UNE Ingunn-Sofie Aursnes.
The temporary legislative amendment was adopted by the Storting in response to the great influx of asylum seekers in autumn 2015. The amendment entitled the Ministry to issue general instructions to UNE on how to interpret legislation and exercise discretionary judgment.
Examples of instructions on matters of interpretation of the law and the exercise of discretionary judgment include what became known as the Storskog instructions regarding the consideration of asylum applications from persons who have held residence permits in Russia.
All decisions made by board chairs and boards must comply with Norway's obligations under international law, and no asylum seekers shall be returned to persecution. This also applied to decisions made in the period from November 2015 to December 2017.
Facts about how UNE can be instructed
• UNE is described in the law as an independent administrative body. UNE’s decision-makers are professionally independent.
• There is one exception: The Ministry can issue instructions in matters that concern considerations of national security or foreign policy.
• The Ministry has always had the right to instruct UNE on the prioritisation of cases and the organisation of its activities.
• I November 2015, the Storting adopted a temporary legislative amendment which, for the first time since UNE was established in 2001, entitled the Ministry to issue general instructions to UNE on matters of interpretation of the law and the exercise of discretionary judgment.
• The Storting revoked the temporary legislative amendment before Christmas 2017. The change came into force on 15 December 2017.