'Norwegian of the Year' expelled to Russia

24th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

A young asylum seeker who was crowned "Norwegian of the Year" after writing about her life as an illegal immigrant was expelled back to Russia on Monday after being arrested in Oslo.

Madina Salamova, who under the pseudonym Maria Amelie wrote an acclaimed book entitled "Illegal Norwegian" about her life undercover, had been living illegally in Norway since her family's final asylum request was denied in 2004.

She was arrested early Monday at an Oslo police station where she had been required to report daily following a first arrest earlier this month.

"I'm tired and scared," the brown-haired 25-year-old said, pulling a small red suitcase through a crowd of reporters who were waiting at the police station.

The deportation, which she had been told to prepare for, took place without incident and Salamova boarded an afternoon Aeroflot flight to Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport with her Norwegian boyfriend shortly after her arrest, television images of their departure showed.

She landed at about 1520 GMT, Norwegian media reported.

The young woman, who hails from North Ossetia in the Russian southwest, was awarded the title of "Norwegian of the Year" last month by the magazine Ny Tid (New Time) for having "given a face to the faceless".

The panel in particular praised her for putting her own future in jeopardy in order to give readers an insight into the conditions illegals are facing.

Salamova arrived in Norway in 2002 and is considered an integration success story: she has completed a Masters degree, although she had to use a fake name and has had to live in hiding.

"Most people think I am Norwegian. I speak Norwegian, I think Norwegian, I dream in Norwegian," she has told media.

She was first arrested on January 12 after speaking at a school. She was freed after a few days but on condition she report to police every day.

Her case has been frontpage news, with thousands protesting to demand she be allowed to stay, and splitting the left-leaning governing coalition.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's Labour Party has refused to make an exception for Salamova, fearing it will open itself up to accusations of weakness from the populist-right anti-immigration Progress Party.

Its Socialist Left Party allies meanwhile have called for Salamova to be allowed to stay, pointing out that there is a shortage of highly qualified labour in the Scandinavian country, which boasts an unemployment rate of only about 3.5 percent.

"We should not reward people who choose to go into hiding and to live illegally for a long time in this country," Stoltenberg insisted to parliament last week, adding "everyone is equal before the law."

Salamova's lawyer insists her safety will be at risk in Russia while media reports have said that her parent fled North Ossetia after her businessman father had received mafia-style threats over the reimbursement of a debt.

Facing criticism, the government gave Salamova a glimmer of hope last week by announcing plans to allow failed asylum seekers to apply for a work permit as soon as they return to their home country without having to submit to a quarantine period.

But Salamova's return to Norway -- where she has been offered a job as a journalist -- could take many weeks, as the law still needs to be changed and she will need to get the required documentation together.

© 2011 AFP

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