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October 1999, Volume 6, Number 10

Northern Europe

More than 1,100 Slovak Gypsies sought asylum in Finland in June 1999; most arrived on flights from the Czech Republic or Hungary. In August 1999, Finland said that most asylum applications had been rejected and that many of the Roma would be returned to the Czech Republic. Finland imposed visa requirements on Slovaks in June 1999. The Foreign Ministry reported that Finnish immigration authorities were advising Slovak Romanies to apply for asylum in the Czech Republic instead of Finland.

In Norway, leaders of the Progress Party, Norway's second largest political party, blamed immigrants for bringing crime into the country and "destroying" Norwegian society. Norway, a county of 4.4 million including 245,000 foreigners, will have elections September 12-13, 1999; immigration is expected to be a major issue. The Progress Party calls for detention for asylum applicants and additional powers for police to wiretap the homes of immigrants. In the 1997 general election, the Progress Party became Norway's second most powerful party with 25 seats in the 165-seat parliament, behind Labor's 65.

Sweden's Integration Minister has proposed replacing the word immigrant with "person of foreign background" in laws and official speeches. She thinks the proposal would combat the "we-versus-them" syndrome. About 20 percent of people living in Sweden have backgrounds other than Swedish.

Benelux. Belgium's Interior Minister complained that too many asylum applicants were arriving—21,000 in the past year. On September 24, the Belgian government approved a plan that simplifies asylum procedures, reforms methods for repatriating illegal migrants and those who have been refused asylum, legalizes the status of illegal immigrants who have become integrated into Belgian society and improves immigrant aid programs and conditions in detention centers.

There are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 illegal migrants in Belgium, which has a population of 10 million.

Between August 1 and 25, the Belgian Alien Affairs Department arrested 1,152 illegal migrants--1,056 claimed to be Kosovars. Between September 1 and 10, 660 foreigners claiming to be Kosovars were arrested; all were on their way to England. During the same time period, 3,311 people applied for asylum in Belgium, including 1,290 Kosovars.

Kosovars are no longer able to claim displaced person status; if apprehended, they are told to leave Belgium, although there are no checks to ensure that they do so. The Belgian aliens police says that many of those claiming to be Kosovars are actually ethnic Albanians from Albania or Serbs from Macedonia.

The Dutch farmers cooperative Cehave said in August 1999 that Dutch farmers are selling high-cost land at home and emigrating to Spain, Germany, Poland and Belgium to continue farming; several hundred have reportedly emigrated.

"Belgium Mulls Kinder Handling of Would be Immigrants," Agence France Presse, September 24, 1999. "No Panic Measures for refugees," De Standaard, September 22, 1999. "Stream of Kosovars Creates Chaos," De Standaard, September 10, 1999. "Finland tells Slovak Romanies to Seek Asylum in Czech Republic," CTK News, September 8, 1999. Tanya Pang, "Norway torn by immigration debate," Reuters, August 22, 1999. "total of 1,152 illegal refugees arrested in 25 days," De Morgen (Brussels), August 27, 1999. "No asylum granted to any Slovak Romay by Finland," Helsinki, September 1, 1999. "Official proposes ban in 'immigrant,'" Reuters, September 1, 1999.