Alternative report to the un human Rights Committee regarding Norway’s sixth Periodic report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights December 2010



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Asylum: Dublin II


104-108

Unaccompanied minors

Due to an increase in asylum seekers entering Norway and a political direction with which Norway has aligned itself to the practice in other European countries, the Norwegian Government in September 2008 chose to introduce measures aimed at reducing the number of asylum seekers. One of these measures was specifically related to the Dublin II regulations as it opened up for the possibility to return unaccompanied minors through Dublin II to a third country were they have previously sought asylum. This is a practice that Norway previously has refrained from, but throughout 2010 continues to practice.

One of the main concerns that arise out of the practice of returning unaccompanied minors according to the Dublin II regulation is whether the best interest of each child is being upheld when they are returned and whether the immigration services consider each case individually before a decision is made to return the child through Dublin II. Current practice shows that the processing of Dublin cases can take several months as requests to countries of return are not responded to in a timely manner and unaccompanied minors therefore are left to wait in Norwegian reception centers over a long period of time during which their case is not dealt with. Of even bigger concern is the fact that unaccompanied children have been returned to countries where the reception facilities are not adequate to safeguard their needs and rights, where they are crammed into prison-like facilities without adequate access to food and clothes and in severe cases where children have been forced to live on the streets. Measures must be taken to ensure the protection of unaccompanied minors rights and avoid that they are sent to unstable situations, harmful to their best interest, or that situations arise where they are held over a longer period of time in reception centers in Norway awaiting return.



We recommend to the Committee to ask Norway:

  • Whether the cases of unaccompanied children are processed individually with a specific lens to ensure that the child’s best interest is considered and return to a third country is rejected where this is harmful to the child.

  • Whether the conditions in other countries within the Dublin II agreement are considered before a decision to return is made, to ensure the safety of the child upon return and ensure that their rights are safeguarded and their case considered in line with the refugee convention of 1951.

Recommendations to Norway:

  • In light of the information available of conditions in other countries within the Dublin II agreement, the Norwegian government must show utmost concern when assessing the individual grounds for return for each child and ensure that their best interests are protected.

  • As the processing of Dublin cases can take many months, the Norwegian government must ensure that unaccompanied minors are not held over longer periods of time in reception centers without their asylum case being considered. There must be a clear limit on the maximum amount of time it should take to process a Dublin case, after which the child’s asylum case should be dealt with by Norwegian immigration authorities to consider granting asylum in Norway.



ICCPR Art.

Subject

State Report para.

Keyword

7

Istanbul Protocol


109-115

Implementation

Norway has for a long time referred to the need to strengthen the work in relation to documentation and investigation of torture, in line with the UN Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, also referred to as the Istanbul Protocol. The guidelines for health services for asylum seekers and refugees has recently been revised and updated, putting strong emphasis on the importance of being aware of asylum seekers subjected to torture, including sexual violence, and to have a focus on possible signs and reactions to such trauma. But the newly revised guidelines do not mention the Manual developed for this purpose. It is not clear in which way the Manual is integrated in the training of relevant personnel in work, not only in relation to asylum seekers, but in other situations where torture and ill-treatment can occur and should be documented.

Important issues follow from this – first of all there should be a clear reference to the Manual (or the Istanbul Protocol) as an important tool in the asylum decision procedure providing this kind of assessment when an asylum seeker reports of having been subjected to torture prior to arrival in Norway. This implies having a system of communication between the different systems involved, that is, immigration, health and reception centres and it requires a system of specialists, in particular forensic doctors and clinical psychologist, in place in order to perform this documentation and investigation. The second set of questions relates to the importance of such documentation for the asylum decision procedure. Will such evidence be used to corroborate and strengthen the application for protection? Will such documentation be made available for the person in light of a possible complaint against a torturing state, for redress and compensation? And finally, will such assessment be communicated into the health care system for further assistance and care? These questions are of utmost importance in relation to asylum seekers, documentation of torture and the meaning of such information in the process.



The State report refers to the implementation of training on how to recognize and deal with cases of torture, but this is a claim which is hard to substantiate, especially so with reference to implementation of the Istanbul Protocol. It is not clear who receives this training and how it is carried out. Furthermore an assessment of the effect and extent of such training would be most welcome. As the training documents and check lists are considered “internal” an evaluation is difficult to make of this programme and it is not possible to check whether the existing material and checklists are in accordance with the intention and purpose of the Istanbul protocol. Also, no information is given as to whether training also includes medical personnel and whether any system will be in place that secures that medical certificates describing or documenting consequences of torture and ill-treatment, both psychologically and somatically, will be provided and actively used in asylum cases.

 Recommendations to Norway:

-         Norway should make sure that the guidelines as described in the Manual are implemented in the asylum procedure, that there are adequate experts available to perform the necessary assessments and that the medico-legal reports based on such assessment are taken into consideration in the asylum procedure. Furthermore, that there is full transparency in relation to training and application of the Istanbul Protocol.

ICCPR Art.

Subject

State Report para.

Keyword

7
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