Debatt arnoldo frigessi

Our responsi­bilities towards students from countries in war

Norway must provide shelter to all students fleeing from Ukraine, independently of their nationality.

Photo taken at demonstration against Russian invation of Ukraine.

Denne teksten er et debatt­inn­legg. Inn­holdet i teksten uttrykker forfatterens egen mening.

The war in Ukraine concerns whole Europe. A catastrophe for the people in Ukraine. Millions of refugees from Ukraine, maybe half of them children, need urgent help and a perspective of life for the next months and years.

Europe, and Norway, are taking rapid decisions on how to help. It is important that Norway will welcome thousands of refugees from Ukraine, simplifying and stripping bureaucracy and procedures. Because it is urgent.

Did you know Norway has a law which states that if a country is in war, their citizens will be automatically refused an entry visa to Norway?

Arnoldo Frigessi, professor at Institute of basic medical science (UiO)

Among the many who are fleeing the war, there are many university students who are not Ukrainians but lived in Ukraine to study. It is essential that Norway opens its doors for them as well, independently of their passport.

This is a war in Europe. Does Norway carry a greater responsibility for refugees from wars nearby than from wars going on more distant from us? Legally not. Morally neither, I say. Practically yes, we are closer and therefore can do more.

Norwegian universities are opening their infrastructure and courses to refugee students from Ukraine, independently of their nationality. I hope this goes rapidly, bypassing all administrative hinders. Show us that you really are able to do so, rectors.

There are other wars, and other students that live in a war. I want to welcome them as well, in my university there is space for them too. Just because the war is further away, this is not an argument to refrain from helping and to offer the possibility to study. Also today, while there is a war here in Europe.

Did you know Norway has a law which states that if a country is in war, their citizens will be automatically refused an entry visa to Norway?

There is a list of such countries, called the list of red countries. Today this list includes: Afghanistan, Democratic republic Congo, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Etiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Irak, Jemen, Cameron, Libya, North-Corea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and South-Sudan.

Becuase of the wars going on in these countries, we will not allow their citizens to get a visa: If they apply, they are refused automatically, without individual evaluation. Do you know why?

The main reason is that if such a citizen should be granted a visa and make it to Norway, she or he could ask for a refugee status. Because of the war in their home land, Norway would need to recognise this status and the person would be allowed to stay in Norway until the war is over. And Norway does not want this, so better negate the visa to all applicants. I think this is simply terrible, a shame.

And even more: the law states some exceptions. For some of these citizens, the visa application should be evaluated individually, despite the fact that applicant is a resident of a red country, namely ph.d students from red countries who are part of a Norwegian educational project, typically funded by Norad.

The visa application of these students should be evaluated, and if there are good reasons to believe that they would go back to their country of origin (and not apply for a refugee status), then the visa should be granted.

The law also contains a list of reasons why such a situation can be trusted: family and job in the country of origin, and a history of travel to and from Schengen countries.

Our five Norad funded Ethiopian ph.d students fulfills all this, nevertheless their visas were refused without evaluation. UDI explains that the reason is the war in Ethiopia. A circular argument, which cannot be used, as the law explicitly says that for these students, visas must be evaluated individually, because Ethiopia is a red country. Double shame.

Maybe now, with the war close to us, and with the will to help, while we welcome students escaping the war in Ukraine, we can change our regulations and the mistaken use of them. It’s urgent.

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