OSLO, Norway — The Norwegian government is seeking to strip the citizenship of more than 100 fake Somali refugees who allegedly lied about their country of origin, an immigration official said Wednesday.
The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration said asylum seekers have been granted citizenship under false pretenses after the immigrants claimed they were from Somalia, when they were in fact ethnic Somalis from neighboring countries and non-Somalis pretending to be Somali refugees, NRK, the country’s state broadcaster, reported.
More than 100 Somalis who lived in Norway for 10 to 15 years have received letters in the mail saying that they could lose their citizenship, according to NRK. The state broadcaster reported that the government is carrying out a large-scale crackdown on immigrants who lied about fleeing from the conflict in Somalia.
“In the last two years we have worked with a group of ethnic Somalis who we thought were from Somalia, but as it turns out they were not from Somalia,” said Karl Erik Sjøholt from the Immigration Department. “We consider this [issue] very serious that it [could] result in permanent expulsion from Norway.”
NRK reported that one asylum seeker came into the office of the Directorate of Immigration in 2003 and told officials that he was from Somalia. “But the man did not speak one Somali word,” Sjøholt said. “The interpreter did not understand anything he said.”
Since then, suspicion began to spread in the Norwegian immigration authorities.
Three years later, Norway introduced language tests of all asylum seekers who said they were from Somalia. “After 2006 we did not see that this has been a relevant issue, although there may have been individual cases,” Sjøholt said.
Those who are found guilty of lying about their country of origin could get their citizenship revoked or expelled from Norway, Sjøholt said.
Sjøholt added that they perceive this fraud to be “such a serious breach of the confidence” they had in the asylum seekers .
He said this will have serious consequences, “even for the children.”