Chiara Palazzo, Telegraph, April 26, 2016
Norwegian authorities are offering a “bonus” 10,000 kroner (£1,000) to asylum seekers willing to leave the country voluntarily.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) says the measure is less expensive than keeping refugees in immigration centres in the country.
Launched on Monday, the scheme will run for six weeks, state broadcaster NRK reported UDI saying.
The money will be paid to the first 500 asylum seekers to apply on a first-come, first-served basis.
“We need to entice more [people] to voluntarily travel back by giving them a bit more money on their way out. This will save us a lot of money because it is expensive to have people in the asylum centres,” Sylvi Listhaug, integration minister, said.
The 10,000 kroner would be in addition to the 20,000 kroner already given to asylum seekers and migrants in an irregular situation who wish to return voluntarily from Norway to their country of origin.
Ms Listhaug said she hoped this project would be successful and would support those who return to their homeland voluntarily.
“There are also many who are not entitled to asylum and are going to be rejected. It’s better for us to encourage them to travel back,” she added.
The Norwegian government initially launched financial incentives for migrants to return to their home countries in December last year.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which processes the Voluntary Assisted Return Programme requests and offers advice and counselling, described it as “safe and dignified”.
Spokesperson Joost van der Aalst said the number of asylum seekers taking up the offer was rocketing, particularly among people attempting to bring their families to Norway.
UDI said that many of the people arriving from Syria, Iraq, the Middle East and Africa expect to receive protection quickly and cannot wait the months or even years the process can take.
“Many cannot wait (for the asylum process to run its course). They have family at home who expect them to be able to help,” Katinka Hartmann, UDI’s head, said 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 made headlines last week after floating in the Mediterranean Sea in an orange survival suit to experience being rescued from a refugee’s “perspective.”
Before starting her new role she was also accused of being insensitive after she invoked Jesus in an explanation for why Norway shouldn’t accept so many refugees.