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Norway to send back Syrian refugees who came from Russia

The Scandinavian country has said it will reject asylum applications from Syrians who previously spent time in Russia. Officials are planning to discuss the matter with their counterparts in Moscow.

Norway will not accept asylum applications from Syrians who have previously spent an extended period of time in Russia, the country's media reported on Thursday.

More than 1,000 Syrians have made the journey from Russia to Norway this year, an arduous but relatively safer trek than the one made by refugees crossing the Mediterranean.

Norwegian officials however said they were planning on sending many of those Syrians back to Russia, arguing the migrants cannot make a legitimate claim for asylum.

No safe haven in Norway

Justice Minister Anders Anundsen told Norwegian public broadcaster NRK that many refugees had already been living legally in Russia for a long time before crossing its northern Storskog border into Norway. The politician, a member of the anti-immigrant Progress Party, said this meant they were not fleeing war, poverty or famine, and therefore didn't need to seek a safe haven in Norway.

Boerge Brende, Norway's foreign minister, said he had discussed the issue with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday.

Norway is a member of the Schengen Zone but not of the European Union. It expects to receive as many as 25,000 asylum applications this year.

blc/msh (Reuters, AFP)

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