Visit from Greek authorities to Norway 30 September- 2 October 2013

The Norwegian Directorate of Immigration is a programme partner to Greek authorities under the EEA Grants. One of the overall objectives with the EEA Grants is strengthening bilateral relations between the EEA states and the beneficiary state.

In each programme there are special bilateral funds available and UDI has been given the responsibility by the FMO to manage a bilateral fund under programme 1.

One of UDI's wishes from the start, working with the EEA Grants, was to have a delegation of our Greek colleagues visit Norway. In addition to strengthening bilateral relations, UDI wanted to give our Greek colleagues a glimpse into the Norwegian asylum system and to help build more competence and knowledge among Greek officials.

Finally, at the end of September 2013, we had the great pleasure of welcoming a delegation of six persons to Norway.

Participants sitting around meetingtable.

Meeting the General Director of UDI, Mr Frode Forfang; from left Mr Dimitrios Tsampira, Mr Konstantinos Iliopoulos, Anita Fjeldsæter, Ms Evgenia Adam, Ms Nicoletta Kolovou and Ms Stamatia Platsikoudi. Ms Polyxeni Anastasiou is not pictured.

The Greek officials were invited for a bilateral meeting but also to participate in the conference, “Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers in Europe – a comparative perspective”. This conference was organised by the Norwegian branch of European Migration Network and the topic was highly relevant for the content of the EEA Grant Programmes in Greece, which will include funding for a screening/reception centre at Evros and also ensure funding for reception facilities.

Before the conference started, the Greek delegation had the opportunity to meet State Secretary Lønseth from the Ministry of Justice and Public Security who had visited Greece and Evros not so long before.

At the seminar the delegation was first given an in-depth presentation of the Return Conditions Directive, presented by a Belgian researcher, originally from Greece; Ms. Lilian Tsordi.

Ms. Sheila Maas, EMN Service Provider gave a presentation of the EMN Study on Reception Conditions. Then Johan Ward from the municipality of Södertälje in Sweden gave a presentation on how Södertelje manages reception of asylum seekers in times of fluctuations, especially now with a very high influx of Syrian asylum seekers.

Before lunch, representatives from local authorities, NGOs, private companies and UDI discussed “Who should run the reception facilities? Local authorities, humanitarian organisations or commercial actors?”.

After lunch the topic was asylum seekers with special needs. One of the most recognised researchers in this field in Norway is Ms Nora Sveaass, from the University of Oslo and member of UN Committee Against Torture. She talked about “Victims of torture: Identification and follow-up” and then Ms Fanny François from Fedasil, Belgium, held a presentation on “Unaccompanied minors and best practices.”

The last session dealt with the challenges of long stayers in reception facilities. Ms Anita Vardøy, Ministry of Justice and Public talked about challenges and possibilities.

Conferanceroom with participants.
At the EMN seminar.

In the evening of Monday, 30 September, an official dinner was held for the Greek delegation, bringing together representatives from the Ministry of Public Order and Citizen Protection, the Asylum Service, the First Reception Service, the Norwegian Embassy in Athens, Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security and the Directorate of Immigration.

Tuesday 1 October started early with a presentation of UDI and the Norwegian migration system by the General Director at UDI, Mr Frode Forfang. Then the delegation walked a couple of blocks down to the facilities of the Immigration Police initial registration (PU) site, which is situated in the same building as UDIs Arrival unit. The Greek delegation had a briefing from PU's Head of Unit, Ms Eli Fryjorde, and a small tour of PU's facilities where interviews are held and fingerprints taken. The delegation then went to UDI's arrival unit were they were given a presentation by Head of Unit, Ms Lara Benjnouh.

After a quick Italian lunch, the delegation travelled to Refstad Initial Reception and Screening Centre. Regional Director at UDI, Mr Shahrock Vahabzadeh and Centre Manager Ms Tove Gilje briefed the delegation, before touring the reception facilities. The delegation visited the health clinic, the children’s area and they were able to talk with the personnel from the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) who provides the asylum seekers with information about their duties and rights, as well as the different procedures they will meet as an asylum seeker in Norway.

Participants standing beside eachother.

At Refstad Initial Reception and Screening Centre; Ms Marit Sjaastad, Centre Manager Ms Tove Gilje, Ms Charlotte Mysen, Mr Shahrock Vahabzadeh, Mr Dimitrios Tsampira, Ms Polyxeni Anastasiou and Ms Evgenia Adam.

Parts of the delegation left for the airport while the rest headed back to UDI Headquarters where Ms Anne Sofie Døskeland and Marie Holten from the Asylum Department gave a presentation of age determination methodology.

Ready for some cultural bilateral exchange, the Greek delegation went for a short car ride through Oslo seeing some of the main sights, then meeting up with the EEA Grants team at the National Museum of Art which was celebrating the 150 years anniversary of Edvard Munch. After a walk down the main pedestrian street of Karl Johan, we ended up at the National Opera for dinner.

On Wednesday morning the Greek delegation held a presentation of the work being done by the Special Unit for Children at UDI. Both the Greek delegates and representatives from UDI then went to Hvalstad Reception Centre for unaccompanied minors 30 minutes outside Oslo, and after a presentation by the centre manager and a tour around the centre, spent the rest of the day discussing relevant topics related to reception facilities, routines and guidelines pertaining to unaccompanied minors.

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