Norway is offering its asylum seekers a £840 “bonus” if they agree to leave the country voluntarily.
The Norwegain Directorate of Immigration (UDI) said the measure had been brought in as a cheaper alternative to paying for refugees to stay in immigration centres in the country.
Launched on Monday, the “offer” will run for six weeks and is paid on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Norwegian state broadcaster NRK.
Applicants must have arrived in Norway before 1 April this year and only the first 500 asylum seekers who apply will receive the extra funds. Integration Minister Sylvi Listhaug said she hoped the move would encourage migrants and refugees to return to their home country.
“We need to entice more [people] to voluntarily travel back by giving them a bit more money on their way out,” she said. “This will save us a lot of money because it is expensive to have people in the asylum centres.”
“There are also many who are not entitled to asylum and are going to be rejected,” she added. “It’s better for us to encourage them to travel back.”
The 10,000 kroner “expenses bonus” will be paid in addition to the 20,000 kroner already offered to migrants and refugees who choose to leave Norway, as part of a financial incentive brought in by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) last year.
Of around 31,000 people who applied for asylum in Norway last year, 7,825 applications were refused. Approximately a third of the total number of refugees were from Syria.
The Norwegian government agreed to take in 1,000 refugees from Syria as part of an EU agreement, but was criticised in January for attempting to send over 5,500 people back across the Russian border on bicycles. The UDI said that due to the high quantities of migrants and refugees, Norway was unable to offer protection to many of the people arriving from Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and Africa in sufficient time.
“Many cannot wait (for the asylum process to run its course). They have family at home who expect them to be able to help,“ said Katinka Hartmann, head of the UDI, in December.
“For a long time, Norway has not been able to forcibly return people to Somalia, but now that we can, I think that more Somalis with an obligation to leave will opt for assisted return.
“It’s important to have more initiatives of this kind in the future,” she said.
Ms Listhaug was criticised last week after floating in the Mediterranean Sean to experience being rescued from a refugee’s “perspective”.
Last year the minister was heavily criticised for using Jesus as an explanation as to why she was against accepting high numbers of asylum seekers into Norway. (Independent)