Jul. 2, 2013 (TSR) – Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden‘s limited option has now a silver lining courtesy of the Vikings and the King of Norway. The 4.6 million populated sovereign nation which has the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, even beating China, and its fierce love for independence, culture of equality and rights, may give Edward Snowden something soon to smile about as told The Santos Republic today by those involved in assisting him.
The Kingdom of Norway confirmed on Tuesday that it has received an asylum application by American whistleblower through the Norwegian embassy in Moscow on Tuesday. By Tuesday afternoon, it quickly became known that the application would be rejected on formal grounds. However, that is not the full story and context.
The reason for the rejection of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI) is that Snowden is not in or Norway, but delivered an application from Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Both the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Justice Department confirmed the would be decision.
Frode Andersen, a Norwegian Foreign Ministry official, in an interview with the Norwegian news agency NTB, said that the Norwegian embassy in Moscow, Russia, received a fax message on Monday afternoon, which is “supposedly signed by him (Snowden).”
The Foreign Ministry, which according to Andersen has no ability to make an investigation into the case, has forwarded the application to the Justice Ministry for consideration.
Norwegian State Secretary Pål Lønseth from the Justice Ministry told Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation that the application will be rejected because Snowden was in Russia when he applied for asylum.
“According to Norwegian law, one can not seek asylum from abroad, and the normal procedure dictates that the asylum application of Edward Snowden will be rejected”, says Lønseth.
Wikileaks spokesman, Kris Hrafnsson, reacted to the rejection when it became known on Tuesday.
“It is disappointing to hear, if it is the final decision of the Norwegian government. There are exceptions to all rules, and if there should be a case that would qualify as an exception, it must be Snowden’s case”, he said to TV 2 on Tuesday afternoon.
He believes that the reason Snowden asked for Norway’s help is due to its image as a democratic model.
“It is Norwegian heritage, which I’m sure Snowden knew about. Norway has historically shown that they stand for their principles and ideals, even in the face of strong criticism and even threats from large nations like China”, says Hrafnsson.
Hrafnsson think it is obvious that Snowden is a political prisoner because the United States has revoked his passport.
“It may be similar to revoke his citizenship, by taking away the symbol of his citizenship (…) It is outrageous, and that evidence alone should be suffice to look at Snowden as a political prisoner”, said the spokesman.
The head of the Asylum Department of Immigration Hanne Jendal said there was no room to make use of the exemption rules for granting Edward Snow its application for asylum in Norway.
“To be eligible for asylum, it is essential that the applicant is stationed in the Norwegian border or in Norway when the application is submitted. This is not true in his case, because he is in Russia”, says Jendal to the Norwegian Broadcasting Company, NRK.
There are exceptions to the rule to apply from Norway or within Norwegian border, but in Snowden’s case Jendal said it was not possible to resort to their exception rule.
“We have so-called third set. Then the application must either come via UN High Commissioner for Refugees or a Norwegian foreign service mission must submit the application on his behalf. This was not done in such a formal procedure which required us to take him on that so-called quota”, she said.
Snowden has been staying in the transfer area of the Moscow airport after his arrival on June 23 from Hong Kong, where he made public the widespread U.S. government attempts of hacking internet systems of other countries.
On 30th June 2013 Wikileaks’ legal advisor Sarah Harrison submitted by hand a number of requests for asylum and asylum assistance on Snowden’s behalf. She gave the documents which outline the risks of persecution Mr Snowden faces in the United States to an official at the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow late in the evening. The unnamed official then delivered it to the relevant embassies in Moscow.
The requests were made to a number of countries including the Republic of Austria, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the Federative Republic of Brazil, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Cuba, the Republic of Finland, the French Republic, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of India, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Ireland, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of Nicaragua, the Kingdom of Norway, the Republic of Poland, the Russian Federation, the Kingdom of Spain, the Swiss Confederation and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
The Kingdom of Norway is the only Scandinavian nation on the list.
Norway CAN give Snowden protection based on Refugee Law
Arild Humlen, one of the country’s foremost experts in refugee and asylum field, disputes that it is not automatic that the application will be rejected even when Snowden is still in Russia.
“Norway has full opportunity to give Edward Snowden protection. We can recognise him as a refugee and that has nothing to do wherever he is located,” Humlen says to a radio channel interview, P4.
The Norwegian Immigration Act does say that an asylum applicant must be inside the domain or by its borders, but Humless asserts that the Refugee Law can override this.
“Norway has a tradition of exactly doing this. During the coup d’etat in Chile, when Augusto Pinochet came to power, Norway was one of the key pro-active countries in relation to bringing Chilean citizens out of the prisons and brought them to this country,” he said.
The Snowden case has become a diplomatic challenge for USA. Humlen emphasises that the international regulations is created as such so it won’t create diplomatic crisis like this.
“Basically, the (Norwegian) refugee law is designed so that one country can give refuge to one or more persons, without automatically be seen as a hostile act”, he concludes.
Norway rejects accusation that it’s bowing to USA
Many Norwegians reacted negatively on the statement of the government saying it was bowing to USA due to political reasons and fear.
Member of Parliament for the Socialist Left Party Aksel Hagen react strongly to rejection. He believes the reason is political.
“It is a shame that they have justified the rejection that they formally have to do it, because we have options if we want to. Unfortunately I think it is due to our fear of the United States, and I think it is totally misunderstood. What Snowden has done is to point out that the United States has violated basic human rights”, Hagen says to NRK.
The professor emeritus from the University of Oslo, Ole O. Moen, said that the quick response was due to the delicate situation Norway is in because of its relationship with the United States.
“Norway gets away with this case very easy by saying Snowden is not in Norway and therefore cannot apply for asylum. This is a delicate situation for Norway, as a loyal partner with USA, ” Moen said to a Norwegian news media, TV2.
Jendal of UDI rejects the accusation that Norwegian authorities are giving Snowden ‘No’ to placate the U.S.
“The Ministry takes UDI’s decision into consideration. There are no important national interests or foreign policy considerations that indicate that the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to intervene in the matter, ” the official statement also said.
The Royal Silver Lining: The Exception to the Rule Clause
After the initial rejection on sheer formalities, a silver lining came for Snowden when the Norwegian division of International PEN, called the Norwegian PEN, stepped up today with an initiative for Snowden’s application to be processed again.
The Kingdom of Norway and its government is now going to re-evaluate Snowden’s application based on the barely used exception clause that as an international organisation Norwegian PEN pointed out and is willing to do for Snowden.
Like several European and North-American centers, the organisation works primarily with freedom of expression-issues, mostly internationally. Norwegian PEN is active in International PENs Writers in Prison Committee and the IFEX (International Freedom of Expression exchange) network.
“It is in our opinion at Norwegian PEN, so far, that this is a clear opportunity for Norway, because of its position as an independent country, to build on the Declaration of Human Rights and its intention with this and take it a step further to shock one that is exposed to such precedence. It is quite natural for us to propose that the UD and UDI to take such an initiative. It would be great tradition of Norway when it comes to refugees”, says chairman of the Norwegian branch of PEN, William Nygaard to NRK.
An outspoken advocate for freedom of speech, William Nygaard was publisher and CEO at Aschehoug Publishing House from 1974 to 2010 and chairman of the Norwegian Publishers Association from 1987 to 1990. He was elected Chairman of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation in 2010. Aschehoug is one of the largest independent publishing companies in Norway, founded in 1872.
Immigration says to NRK that the decision may be reconsidered, because it is possible for some organizations to request that an asylum application is sent from abroad are treated.
The Norwegian Immigration Act creates opportunities including the embassies or international organizations such as PEN or NHC may bring claims that applications will be treated despite the asylum seeker stays abroad.
To make use of this right of initiative, the applicant must be subjected to persecution and fulfill the terms of the Refugee Convention, which in this case, Snowden would qualify as he is subjected to extra-judicial persecution.
In a letter to Ecuador, which Snowden has also submitted application for asylum, argues that the U.S. American operates an extra-judicial persecution of him.
“(…) That the United States has the answers with” an extrajudicial manhunt that has cost me my family and my freedom to travel and live in peace without fear of unlawful attack, ” writes Snowden in his letter to the Ecuadorian authorities.
“A country like Norway has strength, power and insight enough to take such an international initiative”, says Nygaard added..
What gives an organisation like PEN the right to pursue this route is found within the Norwegian Immigration Act section §35 called Resettlement of refugees at the request of international organisations, etc. (resettlement refugees):
At the request of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, other international organisations or other bodies as determined by the King in regulations, the Directorate of Immigration may, within the limits and in accordance with the guidelines that are laid down by higher authority, make administrative decisions to the effect that a foreign national shall be granted an entry permit. The King may by regulations give the power of administrative decision to another body.
The Ministry may, independently of the limitation laid down in section 76, second paragraph, give instructions in cases relating to entry permits pursuant to this provision.
A foreign national who has received an entry permit pursuant to the first paragraph shall hold a residence permit granted pursuant to this section until the Directorate of Immigration has decided whether the foreign national shall receive a residence permit as a refugee pursuant to section 28 or a residence permit pursuant to section 38. In the assessment of a case pursuant to sections 28 and 38 after entry, due weight shall be given to whether the foreign national had reason to anticipate being regarded as a refugee pursuant to section 28.
Chapters IV and V of the Public Administration Act concerning preparatory proceedings and administrative decisions shall apply only to decisions made after entry. Chapter VI of the Public Administration Act concerning appeal and reversal shall apply in cases where an administrative decision regarding a residence permit has been made pursuant to sections 28 or 38.
The King may by regulations make further provisions in respect of the application of this section.
The problem is that the Norwegian Immigration did not make proper and thorough assessment about Snowden’s subjection for political persecution on which he has a genuine need for protection BEFORE they rejected the asylum application on Tuesday.
On the other side of the coin, Snowden may still be granted a residence permit in Norway even if the degree of persecution he experienced was not enough to qualify him for political asylum. This could be because there is a war going on in your homeland or because you risk being subjected to inhuman treatment. However, revoking his passport and the charges filed in a sealed criminal complaint dated 14 June is enough credible proof for his consideration. Snowden was charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person.
When asked whether they have at all considered whether Snowden may be subjected to political persecution and is in need of protection, they straight-faced responded that they have not done so because the application was not submitted according to the known standard procedures. In other words, it was literally just that.
“We have not considered it such application is presented to us today. Like we said before, we have just rejected now because the application is not submitted in the usual way”, she said.
Contrary to what is being reported in the mainstream media, it is important to note that the Norwegian government did not shut Snowden out. In fact, he is welcome to re-apply again.
According to UDI, Snowden can apply for a new asylum application if he submits it properly, for example through human rights organizations, UNHCR or Norwegian embassy.
“Then it will be reconsidered anew, but it requires that he follows procedures. The case will then be assessed by standard rules for the granting of asylum”, clarifies the leader of UDI asylum Department.
Norwegian Liberals Call Norway to Apply Sanctions against the U.S.A
Meanwhile, Norwegian liberals demand accountability and call to apply sanctions against the U.S.A.
“Monitoring scandal in the United States is a serious threat to privacy”, says Norwegian Liberal leader Trine Skei Grande. The party leader demands the government to respond to the possible surveillance of Norwegian citizens.
“The monitoring case which has been revealed in June can be dangerous for democracy and should not be tolerated by the Norwegian authorities”, says Skei Grande to NTB.
“The fight against this act must take place on two fronts, through sanctions against U.S. authorities and public international law”, she said.
The monitoring program has provided U.S. authorities access to information about individuals outside the United States, provided by companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. This information may also have been shared with Norwegian intelligence service, PST in Norway.
Moreover, a former employee of a Norwegian telecommunication company had claimed last week that FBI authorities forced him to give their clients’ emails and personal information reported by Nordic Page.
The monthly magazine Journalisten wrote that the incident happened in 2010 and 2011. Lysglimt was general manager of e-mail service Runbox, and in March 2013, he was forced to deliver the traffic and e-mails from the servers of the company to the FBI in the United States.
According to Lysglimt, he was first contacted by NCIS in August 2010, where he was asked to assist the American police. But he demanded a court decision. After NCIS got it from the Oslo District Court, he had to give the demanded information.
“I find the whole affair as uncomfortable, not to mention that I can not talk about it with anyone. As I still choose to tell, it’s not because I’m so brave. But when you see what others, like Snowden, is willing, I think it’s a small sacrifice to reveal what happened”, says Lysglimt to the magazine.
Hans Jørgen Lysglimt is now on the parliamentary list of Pirate Party in Oslo for the upcoming elections.
About the Kingdom of Norway
A shipping superpower, a seafood giant, and the world’s third largest exporter of petroleum, the poetically called the land of the ‘midnight sun,’ Norway stands as a colossus on the European stage – eclipsing neighboring countries to emerge as one of the richest, ‘most peaceful,’ and advanced nations.
Oil has been a major driver of Norway’s economy with revenues bringing in almost $68 billion to the state’s coffers. Yet what distinguishes Norway is how it has utilized its oil revenue frugally – the country has put in place legislation that ensures that oil wealth is funneled directly into its sovereign fund. The result? Norway is the largest sovereign fund in the world with $720 billion in its coffers, even beating China.
The government is allowed to spend only 4% of that money in a year although there have been a few exceptions. Yet oil is not all that makes Norway. It is the prudent utilization of its resources that makes the country’s economy resilient and stable. Moreover, the Norwegians are masterminds when it comes to saving.
Norwegians are known by nature to fiercely value their independence, their culture of equality and rights, and it is that innate quality which prompted the country to reject membership in the European Union (EU) during a referendum in 1994. However, Norway is a member of the European Economic Area and contributes in no small measure to the EU budget. Under the framework of this agreement, Norway adopts and implements most EU directives despite not embracing a full-fledged membership in the EU.
Norway has shown that being a prudent and careful manager of its rich resources has created undeniable wealth for the nation.
With a nominal GDP of of $450 billion, GDP per capita of $87,070 (ranking number 3 globally), Norway is a country that is content, and its people are happy. Norwegians rarely complain, so, when you do have a legitimate complaint with a company or its services, you will shock the lower level employees because they don’t experience this often. Also, it is important to note that while the GDP per capita is high, the taxes are high also. But the high taxes helps fund the social welfare of everyone. Everyone is entitled to basic healthcare coverage here, whereas vision and dental are not covered. If you are healthy, it may be too expensive. But, if you’re chronically ill, this is the country for you. Every time you go to the doctor, you must pay around $40, in addition to the medicine you’re prescribed. Then once you hit your cap circa $500, everything is covered for the remainder of the year. Norwegians are also mandated to take unpaid vacation in July. The way people are able to afford a month off without pay is because their company withholds money from the worker’s paychecks every month the year prior and gives them a nice, lump sum of money in June of the following year, aptly called feriepenger (vacation money).
Notably, Norway did not face much of the turbulence that rocked its European counterparts in 2008 and a major part of 2009 as well. The country has shown that financial discipline can be the key to success and has ensured that systematic planning can help overcome gaps in the future. In fact, it offered in 2011 the International Monetary Fund a loan of 55 billion Norwegian kroner ($9.4 billion) to support the agency’s efforts to stabilize the economic situation in Europe and globally.
Norway’s economy remains buoyant and domestic economic activity is expected to be the main driver of growth along with oil, of course, and rising consumer confidence. Though the country was forced to introduce a stimulus package as the economy slowed in 2009 and unemployment was rising, Norway is still in a better position than many countries – its current account balance and government finances are solid, including the banking sector. By the way, the banking sector in Norway is very efficient.
Norway has shown the world that it pays to spend wisely. Norwegians, by nature, are sceptical about debt, and careful not to depend on future income. The playwright Henrik Ibsen, one of Norway’s most famous exports, is reputed to have said that the “strongest man is he who stands alone in the world.” By judiciously saving when the rest of the world was spending, Norway stood alone. By being Aesop’s industious ant and not a spendthrift grasshopper, Norway’s stance has paid off. Yet, Norway knows that while it is living a dream, the dream may not last forever. The future may not be paved with gold but if history is any indication, the hard-working Norwegian may already be preparing for it.
About Norway’s Asylum Application Process
Norway enjoys a righteous worldwide reputation in its environmental and humanitarian activities, close cooperation with other countries in the High North, the Nordic region and Europe, and it is also continually broadening its geographical perspective, in the direction of new economies.
The Norwegian Directorate for Immigration (UDI) considers each application individually to make sure that everyone is treated fairly in accordance with the same laws regardless of who you are.
The new Immigration Act also entails several conceptual changes. For example, the word asylum is replaced by the word protection, which is used in international refugee law.
Another important change in the new Norwegian Immigration Act is that all asylum applicants that have been entitled to protection will be given refugee status. Pursuant to the Act, persons who are currently granted asylum in accordance with the Geneva convention and persons who are protected from refoulment according to other conventions will be given the same status as refugees. This means that both groups will be entitled to the same rights that this entails.
All applications for protection are considered on an individual basis, regardless of which procedure the application falls under. If one’s application is rejected, the person is entitled to appeal the decision. The Directorate of Immigration (UDI) will then process the application first. If the UDI does not reverse the decision, the appeal will be forwarded to the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) for processing.
The Centre is responsible for collecting, analysing and presenting objective and updated country of origin information to various actors within the Immigration Authorities. They also provide information to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice. Their core users are the decision makers within the Directorate and the Appeals Board, who then use the information when making decisions in residency and asylum cases.
The Centre does not participate in the actual decision making process, or express any opinion on whether it is safe for an individual person to return to a specific country or area. Nor do they give advice on what should be the outcome of a case, or interfere in how the information they provide is interpreted against applicable legislation.
The three-week procedure
The UDI rejects a high proportion of applications and where they have a good overview of the conditions. Normally, the UDI will reach a decision within three weeks of the submission of the application for protection in Norway. If further investigation or verification of case information is required, case processing times can be longer.
The following countries are currently covered by the three-week procedure: Armenia, Georgia, Belarus, India, Iraq, Nepal, Nigeria, Russia (ethnic Russians only) and Kosovo (except minorities from Kosovo).
If someone’s asylum application falls under the three-week procedure, the applicant will complete an extensive asylum interview. Asylum seeker will be offered accommodation in a transit reception centre until the asylum interview. After the interview, the applicant will be offered accommodation in an ordinary reception centre, where they can stay while their application is being processed.
The 48-hour procedure
If the person arrives as an asylum seeker from a country that the UDI deems to be safe, their application will be assumed to be without foundation. This is because the authorities of one’s home country normally have both the will and ability to protect the applicant if they are subject to persecution or inhumane treatment.
However, if one’s application falls under the 48-hour procedure, the UDI will carry out a brief interview in order to clarify why they are applying for protection in Norway. The police investigate their travel route. If the UDI deems the application to be without foundation, it will be rejected within 48 hours, and the applicant will be escorted out of Norway.
The Dublin Convention
When a person seeking protection cannot decide which country is to process his/her application, the processing an application for protection is the responsibility of the first safe country that the asylum seeker comes to. This is what Ecuador President Rafael Correa meant when he said Snowden is Russia’s responsibility.
In Norway’s case is quite interesting. The Dublin II Regulation is an agreement between the EU countries, Iceland and Norway that ensures that all asylum seekers will have their application processed in one of these countries. Needless to say, if Snowden flew straight to Iceland, his application would be considered right away as it falls on proper channels.
In the same way as Norway can ask another member state to process an application for protection, other member states can also ask Norway to process an application. When the UDI receives such an application, the government can then assess whether they agree that the processing of the application is their responsibility.
However, it is not easy also. If the application is to be processed in accordance with the Dublin regulations, it is the country in which the seeker first applied for asylum, were registered for crossing the border illegally or were granted a residence permit or a visa that is responsible for processing their application. They will not be interviewed by the UDI. As soon as it has been clarified which country is responsible for processing their application, they will be escorted there. The applicant will then be offered accommodation at a transit reception centre until they are transported out of the country.
The Bright Side: What happens when Snowden gets Norwegian Protection
If Snowden’s application for protection (asylum) is granted, he will be given a residence permit as a refugee. However, the permit confers rights as well as obligations.
If Snowden comes to Norway together with his spouse/partner or cohabitant and/or unmarried children under 18 years of age, these persons can also be granted a residence permit. If they are not granted protection, the Norwegian authorities will consider whether they are eligible for a residence permit on grounds of strong humanitarian considerations or special connection to the realm.
There are special provisions that applies if his family, which in this case yes, is in the home country or in another country.
There is a requirement that the applicant has a sufficient income in order for their family to come to Norway, but that they do not have to fill this requirement if
- the seeker were already a family before you came to Norway
- the seeker have got a residence permit as a refugee (asylum or other reasons for protection)
- the seeker’s family applies no later than one year after they got their residence permit
Travel document and immigrant’s passport
If Snowden’s application for protection is granted, the Norwegian authorities will keep his passport if he have a passport, in this case, none, and a refugee travel document will be issued to him. This travel document is not valid for journeys to his home country, USA.
Asylum seekers who are not granted protection in Norway, but who are granted residence on grounds of strong humanitarian considerations, must normally obtain a passport from their home country. In special cases, Norwegian immigrant’s passports can be issued to persons with a residence permit on grounds of strong humanitarian considerations.
When granted a residence permit, the refugee is entitled to be settled in a municipality. The Norwegian Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) will find a municipality for the refugee to settle in.
Tuition in the Norwegian language and introduction programme
Once granted a residence permit in Norway, Snowden will have a right and obligation to participate in tuition in the Norwegian language and to follow an introduction programme.
I am not at liberty to say much just yet of what transpired to my conversation with Norwegian PEN Secretary General today as legal counsel is now being sought. Tomorrow, I will inform about the developments here from my other Motherland. Meanwhile, we ask that you share this report to everyone.
To be continued…