Map of the world with silhouettes of people seeking refuge superimposed over it.

Norway Targets Muslims for Deportation, Crime Rate Drops?

A years-old rumor from a discredited political blog about Norway’s Muslim populations is reappearing amid a 2019 debate about immigration, as more and more people leave their home countries to seek safety and refuge elsewhere.

First of all, it is not true that Norway has specifically targeted Muslim extremists for deportation.

Between 1995 and 2011, Norway’s immigrant population tripled, making 600,000 of the country’s 5 million citizens immigrants or descendants of immigrants. That has led directly to debates about integration, immigration policy, multiculturalism and national identity within the country.

Since 2011, Norway has taken steps to reform certain aspects of its immigration laws, but the reforms were not specifically directed at Muslim immigrants.

That claim appears to have first surfaced on a now-defunct disinformation blog called  “Political Ears” in November 2014. The website claimed — using a combination of emotional appeals and completely invented “statistics” — that Prime Minister Erna Solberg launched a program that targeted and deported Muslim Norweigans with ties to radical groups:

Oslo, Norway: “The world’s largest gang of  thugs, murderers, and rapists is masquerading as a religion of peace,” says Adrian Stavig, a resident of Oslo.

Beginning this past January, the new Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg began a program which targets and deports Muslims who have ties to radical groups.

While many in America would say this is racist, it’s worked in dramatic fashion. Violent crimes are down more than 31% in Norway.

The article also contains lies about Norway’s immigration laws as a direct response to “radical Islam.”

One of the main objectives of Norway’s immigration reforms has been to deport foreign citizens who are serving prison time there. The country has a limited number of prisons, and 30 percent of its prisoners were foreign citizens at one time, most from Poland, Lithuania, Nigeria, Iraq and Romania, the U.S. Library of Congress reports.

The country has also cracked down on the number of new immigrants allowed into the country by denying more requests for asylum. None of those initiatives specifically targets Muslims.

It is true that 824 unwanted individuals were deported from Norway in October 2014, but it’s not true that all of them had ties to Muslim extremist groups. In truth, less than a third of Norway’s immigrants have come from predominately Muslim countries. As for the immigrants that have been deported, the Norway Post reported that in 2014, the deportation rate was in the thousands (and the numbers only grew over the next few years):

The Ministry of Justice has decided that 7,100 individuals are to be deported by the end of 2014. At the end of October the number of deportations was already at 5,867.

Many of the people who have been deported have been convicted of crime, or are individuals who have already been ordered to leave, but have returned to Norway illegally.

In a February 2018 report, the Global Detention Project noted that Norway’s approach continues to be increasingly militarized:

Norway does not experience acute migratory pressures, has diminishing numbers of asylum seekers arriving at its borders, and has a comparatively small immigration detention system. However, the country operates its sole immigration detention centre according to a highly securitized regime, continues to boost the numbers of people it deports annually, and—similar to controversial practices in the United States and elsewhere—undertakes targeted raids of businesses that are known to employ undocumented people from some of the world’s more conflict-plagued countries, like Afghanistan and Somalia.

In 2016, 3,485 people sought asylum in Norway, a historically low figure that contrasts dramatically with statistics from previous years. In 2015, for instance, Norway received 31,110 asylum applications.2 However, even as asylum requests have dropped precipitously, the number of people removed from the country has continued to climb. In 2016, Norway expelled 5,940 non-citizens, a number comparable to those deported from Italy that same year. In 2015, Norway returned 5,450; in 2014, 5,365; in 2013, 4,450; and in 2012, 4,045.

The increasing number of removals has been triggered by a goal set by authorities in 2014 to increase the number of deportations from the country. The country now detains between 3,000-4,000 non-citizens annually.

A July 2011 terrorist attack is often referenced in conversations about Norway’s national identity, when a far-right Christian — not Muslim — extremist killed 77 people, including 69 young people at a Labor Party youth camp.