Norway: This man survived the 2011 Utøya terror attack. Now, Norway wants to deport him and his family.

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By the time Anders Behring Breivik was arrested by Norwegian authorities in 2011, he had already killed 77 people in one of Europe’s most gruesome terror attacks. Mubarak Haji Ahmed and Khalid Ahmed only narrowly survived the attack at a summer camp on the island of Utøya. Their brother, Ismail Ahmed, was killed.

Mubarak still suffers from mental health issues and hearing loss caused by the shooting spree. That, however, has not stopped Norwegian officials from trying to deport him, a move that has outraged many Norwegians.

Breivik – considered by many an anti-Muslim terrorist – was recently allowed to start studying from prison. Meanwhile, authorities are pushing forward the deportation of one of the few Muslim victims of his attack.

“Everything is unjust about this case – it is a horror story of immigration administration gone amok,” Rune Berglund Steen, the director of the Norwegian Center against Racism, told The Washington Post.

“Mubarak Haji is a survivor of Utøya – someone who is still struggling every day with what happened that day when he lost his brother because of hatred. This case is an embarrassment for our nation. If we actually deport one of the survivors from Utøya it will be a lasting disgrace,” Steen said, before adding: “As a society, we should build a fortress around the survivors from Utøya — and not use our public resources to persecute them and even chase them out of the country.”

Mubarak came to Norway at the age of 10. His family was originally from Djibouti, but later lived in Yemen. However, both his father and his older brother Khalid faced problems due to their political activities in the country. In order to increase their chances of being allowed to stay in Norway, Mubarak’s father and his brother Khalid told immigration authorities the family was from Somalia – a country that was considered to be more dangerous than Yemen at that point of time.

Two years ago, Khalid acknowledged that he had lied to Norwegian authorities, and left the country voluntarily earlier this year.

Khalid cared deeply about his family. Moments after Ismail was shot by Breivik four years ago, Khalid sat down next to his younger brother – ignoring the risk of being killed himself, he later recounted.

“He had a large bullet wound in his face. I stroked his cheek, while I recited the Koran. At the same time I thought: ‘How am I going to tell mom that my brother is dead?’,” Khalid later told Norway’s VG newspaper.

Khalid says he had to be dragged away from his younger brother’s body. When Mubarak Haji discovered Ismail was dead he shouted and cried. “I walked over and hugged him, without saying anything,” Khalid said in the interview with VG.

What worries Chris Klemmetvold, a friend of the family who has founded a support group, is that leading Norwegian politicians appear to be unwilling to oppose the deportation.

“The former minister of justice, Knut Storberget attended the funeral of Ismail Haji Ahmed after the terrorist attack on Utøya and said: ‘We will do everything we can to help this family’,” Klemmetvold recounts the speech. More recently, however, the former minister was being quoted as saying by local newspaper Ostlendingen: “I do not comment on individual cases.”

In an e-mail statement to The Washington Post, the deputy director general of Norway’s Immigration Appeals Board, Ketil Larsen, said: “This erroneous information [about the family’s origins] was given by [the] parents and elder brother [Khalid], but the whole family got their residence permits based on this erroneous information. The whole family got their citizenship revoked when it was discovered that they came from Djibouti and not Somalia.” The decision also affects Mubarak Haji’s sisters, as well as another brother and survivor of the Utøya attack — Benjamin Ahmed Caleb — who decided to leave Norway back in April.

Asked whether the terror attack and the related health concerns were taken into account in determining Mubarak’s immigration status, Larsen explained: “It was a central element considered in the case, but it wasn’t decisive in the final result.”

Haji Ahmed's father died five days after he was sent to Djibouti. (Credit: Family photo, provided by Chris Klemmetvold)
Haji Ahmed’s father died five days after he was sent to Djibouti. (Credit: Family photo, provided by Chris Klemmetvold)

To Jostein Løken, the family’s lawyer, the official explanations do not make much sense. Apart from the argument that children should not be deported for the mistakes of their parents, he said,  the family has assimilated into Norwegian society. The brothers and sisters of the family “have grown up and have all their friends, network, education and work experience in Norway. Some of them have had children of their own in Norway. These children are also integrated and are currently attending kindergartens and schools. Because of this, a deportation will have a enormous consequences for this third generation, who are not to blame for their grandparents’ mistakes,” he said.

The family’s mother was also forced to leave Norway recently.

Mubarak’s father died a few weeks ago in Djibouti, five days after he left Europe.

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