Human trafficking witnesses can stay in Norway
Posted by African Press International on June 14, 2008
Whistleblowers who witness against their exploiters will in future be given the right to remain in Norway. Previously witnesses have been sent abroad to face retribution from their tormentors.
Libe Rieber-Mohn promises resident permits to trafficking witnesses.
PHOTO: SVEIN ERIK FURULUND
“The government will instruct immigration authorities to give residence permits to victims who give testimony in court cases against human traffickers,” Libe Rieber-Mohn, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion told daily newspaper VG.
The ruling will allow people who do not qualify for asylum or residence on humanitarian grounds to stay in Norway.
This change was prompted by warnings from organizations working to protect prostitutes and leading defense attorneys. They advised victims not to come forward, since they would be putting themselves in danger and had little hope of receiving protection and the right to stay in Norway.
The most recent human trafficking trial took place in Bergen in Western Norway in January. Four men from Romania were given two-year sentences and have subsequently left the country. The women who testified against them feel let down by the Norwegian authorities. They were told by police and welfare services that they were likely to be allowed to stay if they testified. Shortly after delivering testimony crucial for the prosecution, their application to stay in Norway was turned down.
“I feel used by the Norwegian authorities. I would never have come forward if I had known that I was going to be thrown out afterwards,” one witnesses told daily newspaper VG.
She is currently in hiding, fearing that the traffickers’ accomplices will find her. By confronting them in court she feels that she has put herself in danger. If she is returned to Romania her situation will become impossible. She has appealed to the Norwegian Immigration Appeals Board.
“We have no direct influence over the Board but we hope that the new instructions to the Directorate for Immigration will be a factor in their decision”, says Rieber-Mohn.
When asked whether wanting to stay in Norway might taint evidence given by future witnesses, Rieber-Mohn says that her Department is working with the Ministry of Justice to find a good solution to this question.