4-year-old’s Fate Hanging on Kenyan Mother’s Asylum Case in Norway

Maria, a four-year-old girl, is a Norwegian citizen. But her asylum-seeking mother has to leave Norway after her application for protection was denied.
In one week, a court case will seek to determine whether she grows up in Norway or in the largest urban slum in the African country of Kenya.
Maria holds Norwegian citizenship because her father is Norwegian.
Norwegian immigration authorities are moving to deport Maria’s mother, an African woman, despite the fact that she is the single parent of a citizen with a right to live in Norway, said Mads Andenaes, professor of law at the University of Oslo.
Andenaes took on the case after his students became aware of it through their work at an organization assisting asylum-seekers and immigrants called SEIF. In the view of the law professor, deporting the mother would be the same thing as deporting the little girl who has a claim to her mother.
After they lost the case in the Oslo District Court in November 2013, it is now up for appeal on May 20.
Andenaes, who usually teaches law, renewed his license to practice law just so he could take the case pro-bono along with another lawyer, Rasmus Asbjoernsen.
Georg Schjerven Hansen has been assisting Maria and her mother through SEIF. “Now her mother has been forced to make an impossible choice,” he said.
In Kenya, they will have to live on the streets, unable to afford healthcare or education, Maria’s mother told Norway’s leading newspaper Aftenposten last year.
Andenaes said Maria’s mother had nothing to return to and at the same time she must act in Maria’s best interests.
“Giving her a childhood in Nairobi’s slums wouldn’t be in her child’s best interests,” said Andenaes.
Hansen added: “The case is important because of the principles at stake.”
A country of only 5 million people, Norway each year receives around 10,000 asylum seekers, a lower number than other countries in the region. Neighboring Sweden annually receives 50,000 asylum seekers, for example.
While a majority of asylum cases in Norway are decided within a year, many take longer, and complex cases are especially prone to delays.
The years-long process is part of the reason Norway has seen a rise in cases of so-called “asylum children,” where children of asylum seekers have grown up in Norway and in many cases know no other homeland.
When their parents’ asylum cases are denied, a number of families have gone through gruelling court cases to determine whether they ought to be permitted to stay in Norway or whether the whole family must be deported.
In 2013, 12-year old Neda Ibrahim along with her parents and three siblings were deported to Jordan after living for 10 years in Rogaland, a county on Norway’s western coast.
A Norwegian media outlet puts the number of such “asylum children” in Norway at 752.
While many children are born in Norway to asylum seekers during their lengthy wait for a decision in their case, only few of them have a Norwegian parent. Maria’s case, because she is the child of a single mother and a Norwegian father, is unique.
Andenaes said that he hoped to win the case in the appeals court.
UNE, a government agency in charge of appealed decisions regarding asylum cases, declined to comment on this specific case, as it is under consideration by the court.

– Finland Times