More than 800 so-called asylum seekers have withdrawn their applications in Norway and left the country, apparently deciding that the Scandinavian haven wasn’t as nice as they expected. In total, 31,145 people sought asylum in Norway last year.
One in eight of the 805 people who withdrew their applications last year came from Syria, a place deemed to be so dangerous by near neighbour Germany last year that it issued an open invitation to anyone holding a Syrian passport.
A further 137 were from Iraq, where Islamic State has taken hold, and a further 62 from war-torn Afghanistan, the Local has reported.
The majority returned home, although others headed elsewhere. Syrian applicants in particular moved on rather than return home, mainly to Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
The figures were obtained from Norway’s Directorate of Immigration (UDI) by Vårt Land. Katinka Hartmann, the head of UDI’s returns unit has told that paper that the migrants’ motivations for withdrawing their applications were not fully understood as the Directorate doesn’t ask for reasons when an application is withdrawn.
However, she assumes that they had simply become disillusioned by life in Norway after experiencing it for themselves.
“We assume that many of them had an unrealistic and erroneous perception of the types of opportunities they would have in Norway. Probably those who do not have a need for protection release that there is little to gain in having their asylum applications processed here,” she said.
There is evidence that migrants are shopping for the best benefits deals to be had in Europe – and Norway has recently altered its policies on migrant benefits, cutting benefits for asylum seekers by 20 percent and increasing the wait for permanent residency from three to five years.
They are also working with the Iraqi and Eritrean governments to strike a deal on returning asylum seekers home, and have been offering grants of €10,000 to migrant families willing to leave the country. 230 families applied for the grant in December, more than twice the figure applying last summer.
However, it is clear that many migrants have unrealistic expectations of what is on offer in the West.
In a recent interview, a German social worker working in a Hamburg asylum centre revealed that the majority of migrants expect to be handed a job, a flashy car and vast apartment upon arrival in the country. When it is explained to them that those things are not on offer, many become abusive and violent.
“One Arab yelled at a colleague of mine ‘We will behead you!’” she said.