Bonus to leave: Norway to pay asylum seekers extra to return home

© Ognen Teofilvovski
Norwegian authorities are set to pay about 10,000 kroner (US$1,200) to asylum seekers willing to leave the country voluntarily. Oslo says the measure is less expensive than keeping refugees in immigration centers in the country.

The scheme starts this Monday and will run for six weeks, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (Utlendingsdirektoratet - UDI) said, as cited by broadcaster NRK. The money will be paid to the first 500 asylum seekers who apply for voluntary return to their home countries. 

“We need to entice more [people] to voluntarily travel back by giving them a bit more money on their way out. This will save us a lot of money because it is expensive to have people in the asylum centers,” Integration Minister Sylvi Listhaug said.

Listhaug said she hopes this project will be successful and will support those who return to their homeland voluntarily. 

“There are also many who are not entitled to protection and, by all means, are going to be rejected. It's better for us to stimulate their travel back…,” she added.

Asylum seekers who decide to return home will receive 30,000 kroner ($3,600), including 20,000 kroner for travel expenses.

Earlier the UDI said that a family with two children could expect about 80,000 kroner in addition to the travel expense coverage.

READ MORE: 25% of Norway sex offenders in 2015 have immigrant background – report 

“We wish that those who have come to Norway with unrealistic expectations concerning their residence can come home as quickly as possible and start the life there [in their home countries],” Camilla Wilberg from the UDI said.

She added that the new scheme will be marketed via displays and posters in 31 municipalities across the country.

A total of 35,358 asylum seekers arrived in Norway in 2015, compared with 11,480 in 2014, the Norwegian Immigration Directorate said in December 2015. Under an EU-Turkey deal, the country agreed to take 1,500 asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016. It also agreed to take 1,500 more asylum seekers coming from Turkey.

Europe is now facing the biggest refugee crisis since WWII with more than one million asylum seekers entering Europe in 2015. Most of them are arriving from Syria, where a civil war has taken the lives of 250,000 people and displaced 12 million since 2011, according to UN figures.