According to the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsperson (Sivilombudsmannen), responding to the Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, Norwegian authorities did not impose a moratorium on new immigration detention orders due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the National Police Immigration Service (NPIS) limited the number of immigration detention orders due to the reduced capacity at the police immigration detention centre, mainly caused by the implementation of infection control measures and the cancellation of scheduled returns and deportations. They also reported that the capacity of the immigration detention centre (presumably the Trandum facility near Oslo international airport, Norway’s only dedicated immigration detention centre) has been increased, and each case is therefore assessed individually according to specific criteria in order to decide if a migrant is to be placed in detention or not.
The Ombudsperson confirmed that persons have been released from immigration detention due to the pandemic, as mentioned in previous updates (see 25 April Norway update on this platform). However, no generalised criteria have been established and cases are assessed individually to determine if the legal conditions are still in place for keeping a person in detention pursuant to the Immigration Act. For instance, in some instances, decisions to release immigration detainees were made in order to avoid exceeding the legal time frames for detention provided in the Immigration Act. These cases arose due to flight cancellations and general travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
Upon release, immigration detainees are checked for any Covid-19 symptoms. No further measures are taken apart from encouraging released detainees to follow infection control advice and recommendations provided by the Norwegian government. Within immigration detention, all new arrivals are tested for the disease. Detainees are first placed in a separate quarantine section of the centre, in which they remain until they have been tested and receive a negative result (see 25 April Norway update on this platform). According to NPIS, testing takes place upon arrival and results are normally provided within 24 hours. Non-nationals transferred to the immigration detention centre directly from another prison or detention facility who are free of any Covid-19 related symptoms are not tested. So far, the Ombudsperson reported that no detainees have tested positive at the imigration detention centre.
The majority of accompanied forcible returns have been halted temporarily due to challenges caused by the pandemic, such as closed borders, flight cancellations, issues with transit countries, and safety of the accompanying personnel. A small number of unaccompanied forcible returns were still carried out; however, the amount of rescheduled and cancelled flights has also made these difficult to conduct. There is no list of “approved” countries for deportation but rather continuous assessments are conducted based on developments in the countries. Generally however, countries to which deportation flights were arranged had been determined, following a risk assessment, to be safe for a migrant to travel unaccompanied and where the flight itinerary avoided any transit issues. NPIS has carried out a very limited number of accompanied forcible returns in certain high priority areas. The Ombudsperson did not provide further details in this regard.
In response to the pandemic, Norway adopted several new policies and regulations for immigration and border control. The Ombudsperson indicated that these have mostly consisted of interim acts, regulations and circulars relating to entry restrictions for non-nationals out of concern for public health. For example, limitations to the right of entry of non-nationals who would otherwise be legally entitled to enter Norway under the Immigration Act, when this is necessary to safeguard public health in connection with the outbreak of Covid-19; as well as exemptions from these restrictions for certain groups of non-nationals, including those seeking asylum. As regards border control measures, temporary entry and exit controls have been introduced at the internal Schengen border.
- Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman (Sivilombudsmannen), Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, 22 July 2020.
- Global Detention Project, Immigration Detention in Norway, February 2018, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/europe/norway
- Global Detention Project, “Harm Reduction in Immigration Detention: A Comparative Study of Detention Centres in France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland,” October 2018, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/harm-reduction-immigration-detention
- Trandum Detention Centre in 2016, (NTB Scanpix, “Norway to End Accommodation of Asylum Families at Detention Centre,” The Local, 29 December 2017, https://www.thelocal.no/20171229/norwegian-police-to-end-accommodation-of-asylum-families-at-detention-centre)