Sending out siblings Abbas and Fozi Butt to Pakistan would be a breach of their human rights and the pair should be granted a Norwegian residence permit, the European Court of Human Rights rules.
Human rights vs. “misrepresentation”
Ruling these were “exceptional circumstances”, the Court decided that both have strong ties to Norway, having lived in the country since they were children, but have little ties to Pakistan.
Judges based their verdict on that deporting the siblings would constitute a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). It states that, “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.”
“There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Abbas and Fozi first came to Norway in 1989, aged three and four, with their mother and were granted permanent residence permits on the grounds of strong humanitarian considerations three years later.
Directorate of Immigration (UDI) officials subsequently revoked these in 1999 after gaining knowledge they were sent back to Pakistan for some three and a half years to attend school. The family moved back to Norway in about 1996, according to the Immigration Appeals Board (UNE).
“The mother misrepresented that the family had always lived in Norway when applying for permanent residency in 1995, while in reality they had stayed in Pakistan since 1992,” write UNE officials. “They were thus wrongly granted a new residence permit even though the conditions were no longer met,” they add.
Their mother was arrested in 2005 after going underground. She was expelled to Pakistan, where she subsequently died in 2007.
The Butts decided to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) after the Court of Appeal upheld UDI and UNE decisions not to allow them to have their residence permits reinstated.
Norway’s Supreme Court Appeals Leave Committee refused them leave to appeal in 2007. They sought refuge, and lived in asylum in Oslo’s Holmlia church since losing their case.
Labour Youth (AUF) leader Eskil Pedersen believes that the ruling shows that more needs to be done to help young asylum seekers in Norway. “I think this is proof that we have not found the right balance in relation to minors and young asylum seekers who are growing up in Norway”, he told Dagbladet.
The siblings have also been awarded EUR 41,000 (about NOK 301,685) compensation for material loss, pain and suffering, and legal costs. Both are pleased with the decision telling Aftenposten, “It’s really amazing. I was relieved to hear the news. Now we can stop living in uncertainty”.
Liberal Party (V) leader Trine Skei Grande calls the tri-partite coalition government’s decision to prioritise immigration policy in this case “appalling”, and that the government should be “embarrassed” at such a clear reprimand from Strasbourg.
“I hope we see more of humble tone from the Minister of Justice in this area,” she declared in a statement. Norway’s Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) says it is now looking at the European Court of Human Rights’ decision.
Director Ingunn-Sofie Aursnes told Dagbladet that, “neither the UNE nor the Norwegian court believed it was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights to deny the siblings continued stay in Norway. But the European Court of Human Rights has the right to overrule the Norwegian assessments.”
“During most of their stay in Norway, the applicants lived at the home of their maternal uncle and aunt with family in Oslo” the judgement reads, “[…] the applicants lived with them until 2005 and must therefore be presumed to have close emotional links to this part of the family, who took care of them.”
The Court further finds it established that the applicants lived with their uncle and aunt for most of the time thereafter. This was also where they had their friends and social network. They had received the essential part of their education and upbringing in Norway and mastered the Norwegian language to the full. It is obvious that with time the applicants had developed a strong personal and social attachment to Norway.”
“The Court sees no reason to doubt that they both had such “family life” and “private life” in Norway as fall within the scope of protection of Article 8 of the Convention. The Government’s suggestion that the private- and family life interests at stake were only at the fringes of the Article 8 rights must be rejected,” judges write.
Abbas and Fozi Butt’s fight against deportation has lasted for some 11 years. Norwegian authorities have up to three months to appeal the Strasbourg Court’s decision.