Norwegian intelligence agency says arrival of refugees is increasing national security threat

But it is the risk of far-right extremist, and not the asylum seekers themselves, causing concern

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The Independent Online

Norway’s domestic intelligence agency says the national threat level has increased as a result of the increasing number of refugees and migrants arriving in the country.

But it is the response of far-right groups, rather than the asylum seekers themselves, affecting the security situation.

Benedicte Bjørnland, head of the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST), announced on Thursday that the arrival of thousands of refugees is expected to have “adverse consequences for threats linked to the extreme-right scene”.

A Norwegian police officer serving biscuits to refugees Hussain (L-R), Ahmed, Anoud and Mustafa in the Police Immigration in Svinesund, Norway, 10 September 2015.


“This is because opposition to immigration is one of the most important issues and an important mobilising factor for the groups,” she said.

“There is also a potential for far-left extremist groups in Norway can muster around issues related to the refugee crisis.

“An escalation of the conflict with the extreme right could lead to counter-reactions and violent clashes between right and left-wing extremists.”

Ms Bjørnland said the possibility of militants linked to Isis and other jihadist groups arriving as asylum seekers was not a “central concern” for agents.

The threat of Islamic extremism in Norway mainly comes from people born, raised and radicalised within the country, she said, adding: “It is considered unlikely that the Norwegian asylum system is being used by groups like Isis and al-Qaeda for asylum seekers arriving with violent intentions.”

The security chief acknowledged that some refugees could pose a terrorist threat in the future as they are a “vulnerable group” for radicalisation, but said that many factors come into play.

Following concerns about men believed to have fought against Isis in the Syrian civil war arriving, Ms Bjørnland said there is “not necessarily a connection” between someone fighting in their homeland and spreading violence abroad.

Almost 4,300 first-time asylum seekers, mainly from Syria, arrived in Norway in the first half of this year, according to UN figures, compared to 12,600 in the whole of last year.


The figure is a fraction of Germany’s 188,500 refugee applications, and fewer than the 12,000 seen in the UK during the same period, but represents a larger proportion of Norway’s 5.1 million inhabitants.

The rate of people arriving in the Scandinavian country was falling at the start of 2015 but right-wing and anti-immigration groups continue to argue that it should be lower still.

Erna Solberg, the Norwegian Prime Minister, said in a letter to The Independent that the current crisis seeing thousands of people fleeing war and poverty arriving in Europe every day “could persist over a long period of time”.

“Norway has undertaken to accept a significant number of refugees from Syria until 2017,” she wrote.

“Although a large proportion of those who come (to Europe) are refugees, we must discuss measures to limit the influx of people without an urgent need for protection.”