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Norway seeks to deter asylum seekers

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Norway is to consider requiring large bank deposits from tourists coming from certain Countries in a bid to discourage asylum seekers from entering the Country, the newspaper Aftenposten reports.

Under the proposal, tourists from Countries requiring visas to enter Norway, including those from Russia, India, China and African Countries, or those in Norway who have invited them, would have to pay a deposit of NOK 50,000 (about US$8,500) into a bank account when applying for tourist visas. If the visitor goes home the deposit is refunded, but if the visitor seeks asylum it would go into the State Treasury.

The plan is modeled on tougher immigration rules brought in by Denmark in recent years, and is intended to prevent abuses of the tourist visa system. It has been put forward by the small Democrats Party, but politicians from big political parties are leaning towards supporting it. There is some debate however over the amount of the deposit, with some saying it should not be so high as to deter legitimate tourists.

The number of people seeking asylum in Norway has dropped sharply from 15,600 in 2003 to under 8,000 in 2004. This follows information campaigns in Eastern European Countries by the Norwegian authorities telling people that it was difficult to gain some sort of immigration status in Norway.

"We're beginning to reach a level that's more natural for Norway," said Erna Solber, the minister responsible for immigration, on January 13.