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When a Norwegian woman asks for Asylum in Poland

Reading Time: 6 minutes

By Olivier Bault.

Poland – Today in Europe, freedom is in the East, as the Norwegian Silje Garmo did prove it by seeking asylum in Poland.

Will Poland grant asylum to the Norwegian Silje Garmo and her 16 months old daughter Eira who flee the social services of their country? The Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz has got on his desk for already some months a favourable opinion from the Polish Immigration Office about the application for asylum of the Norwegian woman. After investigation and examination of the file, the Immigration Office has confirmed that the fundamental rights of Mrs. Garmo were threatened in Norway, as well as her elder daughter Frøya’s, almost 13 years old nowadays, who was already taken away from her without respecting her rights to a fair defense and insofar the Norwegian Child Welfare Services (Barnevernet) seeks to take away her younger daughter from her without any legitimate reason. However, for getting asylum in Poland, the favourable opinion of the Immigration Office is not sufficient and it is the Minister of Foreign Affairs – thus the government – who decides as a last resort. The decision of Mr. Czaputowicz might have fallen in February, but the Norwegian mother who seek refuge with her second child near Warsaw was informed of an extension of the deadline until the mid of April and then the end of May. However, the reputation of Barnevernet is not to be done any more in Poland as well as in the other former Eastern countries that have a diaspora in the rich Scandinavian oil monarchy. Does the government of Mateusz Morawiecki fear that granting asylum to Norwegian citizens who deserve it might have an impact on the future supply of Norwegian gas for Poland? On the other hand, the case of this Norwegian and the practices of Barnevernet are very publicised in Poland and exposing Silje Garmo to be deported and separated from her daughter by the Norwegian authorities while the Polish paediatricians and psychiatrists did confirm that there were no reason to take away her child from this mother, might have disastrous consequences for the image of PiS with its voters who usually attach great importance to the rights of families.

On 11 May, a deputy of PiS prepared an parliamentary interpellation for asking officially the minister why he does delay so long for granting asylum to Mrs. Garmo and her daughter. Besides the open support of several Polish parliamentarians, Mrs. Garmo can count on the assistance of the pro life and pro family lawyers’ and legal experts’ organisation Ordo Iuris that helpt her to lodge her application for asylum. Ordo Iuris already defended since years Polish families that were victims of the abusive practices of Barnevernet in Norway and the lawyers of the NGO are preparing today other applications for asylum by Norwegian families who seek refuge in Poland.

Silje Garmo has also got the support of the Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský who wrote to the Polish minister. Tomáš Zdechovský is paying close attention to the practices of Barnevernet since he defended his compatriot Eva Michaláková. Both children of the Michaláks were taken away from them by the Norwegian Child Welfare Services in 2011 and placed in two different foster families. Until today, Mrs. Michaláková was not able to get her children back, though the Norwegian courts have not confirmed the suspicions of sexual violence that were at the origin of the kidnaping of the children by Barnevernet. The case even caused diplomatic tensions between Norway and Czechia. In the same way, the unlikely recovery of a 9 years old Polish girl placed by force into Norwegian foster families by the Polish private detective Krzysztof Rutkowski and her exfiltration to Poland with the help of the Polish consul caused a diplomatic incident between Oslo and Warsaw in 2011. Norway tried to get the girl to be sent back by force but the Polish justice did refuse to bow to the Norwegian demand in the best interests of the child. Even today, the consul of Poland in Norway regularly helps to the evacuation in urgency to Poland of Polish families unfairly threatened by Barnevernet. The same Rutkowski and his team have also organised the recovery of a boy born in Russia that had first tried to get help from the Russian authorities by email (to which he was forbidden to have an access).

Another case that caused a good deal of commotion was the kidnapping in 2015 by Barnevernet of the five children of a Pentecostal Romanian-Norwegian family, the Bodnariu’s, because of “Christian radicalisation and indoctrination” according to the reasons told to the family (as the family told), and officially because of claims of « corporal punishments » (in Norway, even spanking a child or giving him a slap on the hand are forbidden practices). This time, this is with Romania that Norway found itself in a delicate situation, and this case has furthermore lead to a wave of demonstrations in front of the Norwegian embassies over the world. The Bodnariu’s have got more chance than the Michaláks: in their case, the Norwegian authorities have finally bowed to the international pressure and have given back the children to their parents. For the young Michaláks aged today of 8 and 13 years, the contacts with the mother are still extremely limited and supervised, and even the Czech grand-father of both children did not get the right to see them before he died in last September. In other cases, Barnevernet has affected the relations between Norway and other countries like Lithuania, India or Russia. Eight cases concerning abuses by the Norwegian Child Welfare Services are currently challenged at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and may lead to condemnations of Norway for its interferences to the right to respect one’s private and family life.

The specificity of Silje Garmo ist that she is Norwegian and that she fled her country taking with her, then accumulating, with the help of the Polish organisation Ordo Iuris, a certain number of evidences of illegal and abusive practices of Barnevernet, which maybe explains the particular fierceness of the Norwegian authorities to prosecute her. If she obtains asylum in Poland, it will be the first time since the Second World War that a citizen of this country, used to lecture other ones on Human Rights, would obtain asylum in another European country.

The international pressures therefore accumulate on the Norwegian government that had promised to deal with the necessary reform of its Child Welfare system but has still not done anything. On 27 April, the Commission for Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a report prepared by Valeriu Ghilețchi, vice-president of the Parliament of Moldova. This report, that is very critical regarding the abuses of Barnevernet and its interferences to the rights of children and families, was ordered from the Moldovan parliamentarian because of the Bodnariu case. It calls Norway and the other member States of the Council of Europe to find a better balance between the interests of the children as they might be considered by State services and the necessity to respect, unless it is absolutely necessary, the right of children not to be separated from their parents against their will.

The fact is that if Norway commits without any doubt the worse violations in this domain in the name of a totalitarian conception of children education, with a State taking precedence over the parents, other countries in Europe, especially in Western Europe, are following the same direction. This is the case in Germany with the Jugendamt that functions on the same way as the Norwegian Barnevernet where “Children Welfare” is within the competences of the municipalities and which abuses regularly make the headlines of Polish media due to the importance of the Polish emigration into this country, which, since PiS acceded to power, lead to regular interventions of the Polish government towards the German authorities. But it is also the case of other countries, among them France, which citizens also may want to seek for asylum in former Eastern Europe that is generally more respectful for the autonomy of families as a reaction to the experience of communism if Poland does set a precedent by granting asylum to Silje Garmo and her daughter. And this might be what the Polish government fears as this would lead to tensions with the home countries of this new type of refugees.

Benefiting from its consultative status at the United Nations Economic and Social Council, the Polish pro family NGO Ordo Iuris is by the way not only active in Norway but also in other European countries. For example, it has recently intervened with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in favour of the young Alfie Evans whom a British hospital had denied medical treatments in order to accelerate his death, despite the opposition of his parents with the support of the courts. For its fight against the practices of Barnevernet and its action in favour of families in Poland and in Europe, Ordo Iuris has received this year the Family Defense Award of the Christian Coalition of Norway (Kristen Koalisjon Norge, KKN).


Translated from French by the Visegrád Post.