Norwegian People’s Aid is responsible for assisting all resettlement refugees arriving at Oslo Airport Gardermoen - a service we do on behalf of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI). Many of the resettlement refugees that travel to Norway don’t have much experience from airports and air travel, and often speak a language few of the employees at Oslo Airport understand. NPA’s Reception Service consists of a team of 8 staff who travel to the airport every week to meet and assist incoming resettlement refugees. The work of our refugee assistants consists of being a practical advisor at the airport as well as being a person of trust in an otherwise stressful situation. Our service started in 1994 and we have assisted more than 27.000 resettlement refugees in total since then.
What is a resettlement refugee?
Resettlement refugees, also called UN-refugees or quota-refugees, are persons who risk persecution in their country of origin and who live in a second country where they are not safe or cannot stay, and who therefore must be resettled to a third country. The difference between asylum seekers and resettlement refugees is that resettlement refugees have their case treated and are acknowledged as refugees by UNHCR and the Norwegian government before they arrive in Norway. Resettlement refugees cannot return to their homeland and UNHCR subsequently request for other countries to receive them.
From which countries do most of the resettlement refugees come from?
The Norwegian Parliament decide how many resettlement refugees Norway will receive in the coming year, as well as which nationalities and from where they will be coming from. For many years the quota amounted to 1 120 resettlement refugees per year, but this quota was first increased in 2014 and furthermore so in 2015 in view of the situation in Syria. The quota amounts to 2 620 resettlement refugees for 2015. In 2014 we received one thousand Syrians who had fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, 200 Congolese residing in Uganda and 200 Afghan women who were residing temporarily in Iran. Additionally, there were 125 places for refugees from unspecified countries of origin, 20 spots for medical cases and a quota of 75 dossier-cases (urgent matters).
The Reception Service’s routines
An e-mail ticks in every Friday afternoon to the project manager of NPA’s Reception Service at Oslo Airport. The e-mail contains the travel information of all incoming resettlement refugees in the coming week. The shifts are allocated to the refugee assistants in the course of the day. The refugee assistant then meets the passengers at the gate as they exit the aircraft, and welcomes them to Norway.
Papers and visas are then checked to make sure the resettlement refugees are the ones we are meant to meet. We follow them through passport control if the plane arrives from a country outside EEA. We rarely encounter challenges in this phase as all of the refugees we welcome have their travel documents issued by the Norwegian Embassy in their country of departure.
We then guide them through baggage collection and customs clearance before we exit the arrivals hall. Those refugees who are going to live in a municipality near Oslo, are picked up at Oslo Airport Gardermoen, those who have a connecting domestic flight are followed up to the departure hall. In the departure hall we assist in the check-in for their final destination in Norway and then pass through security control. We have experienced some unexpected situations in the security control as to what the refugees bring in their hand luggage, but we have never experienced anyone bring in any illegal artifacts.
The remaining work session goes to making sure each person and each family is taken care of, that those who are hungry or thirsty are attended to, and that everyone boards the correct aircraft at the time of departure. At times we must wait for several hours together with the refugees due to delays or cancellations. Our refugee assistants are highly familiar with all of the airport’s facilities and the playground in the departure hall is often a successful place for children when the waiting time is long.
In the event of flight cancellations or any other form of large modifications in anyone’s itinerary, we assist and organize accommodation at one of the hotels near the airport.
In addition to meeting refugees who arrive in Norway, we may also assist refugees who wish to return to their country of origin. We have previously assisted large groups who were going back to Kosovo in the time it was applicable. Today we usually meet only one family at a time. In these events we assist and guide where necessary and make sure the persons leaving have a pleasant departure from Norway.
Wish to contact NPA’s Reception Service (Mottakstjenesten)?