Aftenpoften- Norway 27/9/2005
Tensions running high at asylum center
Police in the southeastern county of Østfold have been spending lots of time at an asylum center in Våler, where a group of refugees from Chechnya have demanded that strict Muslim laws be followed. Police worry that center administrators have lost control.
Both residents at the center at Nordbybråten in Våler and employees working there have been frightened by the group of around a dozen Chechen refugees, reports local newspaper Moss Avis. The Chechens allegedly are demanding that everyone must pray to Allah, that no one can wear shorts and that they must be allowed to be the first to take their meals.
Employees filed a police report about conditions at the center, which is prompting emergency meetings with the national immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) and management at the Våler.
"We have conditions at Nordbybråten that can raise questions about whether the management at the asylum center has lost control," Våler sheriff Per Tore Fremstad told Moss Avis.
Police were called to the center yet again over the weekend, when an employee asked a resident refugee to show identification. The employee ended up being physically assaulted.
Fremstad said police have been summoned to the center eight times in the past two months. Police officers responding have described conditions there as "scandalous" and "lawless." Most of the calls require at least 10 police officers to restore order at the center.
Ole Morten Lyng, leader of the center, admitted to Moss Avis that conditions "aren't acceptable" and that he's been trying to beef up staffing. He said the Chechen refugees now say they'll cooperate, and admit they've been "impulsive."
He allowed that some of them demand to eat first, but repeated "that's not acceptable." He said center staff will also get more training in dealing with traumatized refugees.
Fremstad said UDI needs to take a stronger role at the center, and that residents who cause trouble should be moved to other centers quickly. Many of the refugees can be deported, he said, "but it can take weeks before they can be sent back where they came from," because of bureaucracy in other countries.
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