Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NORWAY: Asylum-seeking writer detained and faces deportation following publication of book

Maria Amelie, Russian-born writer and asylum seeker, was arrested and faces deportation from Norway after drawing attention to her situation in her book, Illegally Norwegian. The Norwegian PEN Centre has taken up her case and has issued the following Action Alert.

Oslo, 13. January 2011

Writer detained, faces deportation

On the evening of Wednesday 12th January, the 25 year old writer Maria Amelie was arrested for breaking Norwegian immigration laws. She now risks deportation to Russia. Norwegian PEN and other human rights organizations in Norway, react on this encroachment against a writer and the criminalization of a free, Norwegian voice.

Maria Amelie arrived in Norway with her parents when only a child. First from Russia to Finland in 2000, then on to Norway in 2002. The family applied for asylum, but was turned down in 2004. For more than eight years she has been living in Norway without an official or legal permit. In spite of this she speaks Norwegian and lives a normal life, but like thousands of asylum seekers without the necessary legal papers, she has no right to stay, take work or receive any medical treatment. In spite of this she has completed a Norwegian education including a masters degeree without a social security number, an ATM-card or other types of identification.

Last fall her book, Illegally Norwegian, was published, an account of her life as an asylum seeker with no rights in Norway. Her book has given a name and a face to a huge problem in the country. In doing this, she has used her right to express herself and the right to write; her publisher has used his right to publish. If she had decided to remain silent, and had not turned herself into a public figure, defending all asylum seekers in the same situation as herself, it is highly unlikely that she would have been deported.
Two weeks ago she submitted an application for asylum to the Norwegian authorities. She now asks that her case, previously linked as a part of her mother's case, must be treated as an individual case. She does not want to be punished for what her parents did when she was a child.

Maria Amelie was arrested last night by eight - 8 - plainclothes police officers after completing a lecture based on her book at the Fridjof Nansen college in Lillehammer, Norway and will appear in court in Oslo this afternoon.

Norwegian PEN and other human rights organizations have reacted sharply to the treatment she now receivews from police and immigration authorities. In a joint statement, due to be published in the Norwegian daily Aftenposten tomorrow, Norwegian PEN, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and Amnesty Norway, state:

"Amelie arrived in Norway when only a child. She has completed higher education and a remarkable effort to be a part of the Norwegian society by focusing on the situation for the so called "paperless" asylum seekers. At 25 she has contributed more to Norwegian public debate than most of us do in a lifetime.

"From both a political and moral aspect, the detention of Amelie is a deplorable act. She left Russia when she was a child because her parents brought her with them. During the past eight years she has established a vast network and in every way tried to live as an honest citizen - except for this one issue, that she actually stayed in Norway. But in doing so she also followed a tradition enriching to our democracy - the demonstration of civil disobedience against laws perceived as unjust.

"This is not about Maria Amelie and how outstanding she is. All asylum seekers should be treated in the same way in legal matters, and there are many ‘paperless' asylum seekers like her in Norway. But if there is no room for reason and humane considerations in single cases like this, the law has no function. A police action like this against a single woman - is this the kind of Norway we want? We demand that our minister of justice, Knut Storberget, stops this disgraceful deportation of a brave woman who has alerted our society about an invisible problem: the destiny of paperless asylum seekers all over Europe."

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