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Norway's Listhaug unveils tighter asylum rules

Norway's new hard-line immigration minister has unveiled tough asylum rules changes. Sylvie Listhaug wants parliament to adopt the bill in February to avoid "violent consequences" for Norwegian society.

Norway's Organization for Asylum Seekers railed on Tuesday against Listhaug's draft legislation, accusing Prime Minister Erna Solberg's minority government of making life more difficult for asylum seekers instead of upholding safeguards.

Solberg's Conservative Party depends on the populist Progress Party and its member Listhaug, 37, who is also integration minister and is known for her anti-immigration stance.

Before her appointment to the cabinet on December 16, Listhaug, then agriculture minister, criticized what she called a "tyranny of kindness that is blowing over Norwegian society like a nightmare."

"It is very serious that politicians are using punitive measures that would make it more difficult for a number of asylum seekers who are entitled to protection," asylum association spokesman Andreas Furuseth told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

Listhaug said she wanted 40 or so major and minor asylum law changes submitted to parliament in February before the European spring season, when asylum seeker arrivals were expected to rise again.

She told Norwegian NRK public television that her legislative package amounted to a "sharp retrenchment" on wide social entitlements previously granted to refugees.

Some 35,000 asylum seekers arrived in Norway in 2015.

It was a record for the oil and gas-rich Nordic nation of 5.2 million people, which in recent weeks saw fewer arrivals, in part because of border controls reintroduced in neighboring Sweden and the arrival of wintry weather.

NRK said the proposed rule tightening would allow family reunifications only after the applicant had acquired four years of work or education in Norway.

And, the government would issue voucher cards instead of cash for day-to-day items to prevent applicants from sending money to family back home.

Migrants who arrived on transit visas via Russia would not be granted asylum.

Older applicants in the 55 to 67 age group would be required to learn the Norwegian language and aspects of Norwegian society.

Applicants who fail to present identity documents will be refused asylum. A grant of temporary residence would not automatically lead to permanent residence.

Listhaug said she expected between 10,000 and 100,000 people to apply for asylum in Norway in 2016.

Watch video 04:41

Norway: new refugee routes

ipj/ng (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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