OSLO, Oct. 10 (Xinhua) -- Norway is the strictest country in Europe when it comes to Afghan's asylum applications as most male asylum seekers from the war-torn country were rejected, newspaper Aftenposten reported on Monday.
"If only I knew this, I would not have come to Norway... Now I cannot submit my application in another country either, since Norway took my fingerprint," Ali Riza Mohammadi, 28, told Aftenposten.
He said he had paid 5,000 U.S. dollars to get to Norway and was afraid to go back.
Mohammadi is among many Afghan men whose chances are low of receiving a positive response, the report said.
Had he applied for asylum in Italy, he would have been almost guaranteed to have received a residence permit, the newspaper's analysis showed, with data compiled from the European Union's (EU) statistical office, Eurostat.
"Whether the migrants from Afghanistan are entitled to asylum or not is among what the European countries disagree most about," said Elisabeth Collett, director of the Migration Policy Institute (MPI).
Referring to other country's immigration policies, Collett said: "They enforce the same regulation, but the interpretation is widely different."
Last year, Norway refused 69 percent of all Afghan asylum applications, while the average in Europe was 43 percent.
However, it is difficult to get a clear picture as to whether one country is more strict than another, considering the large variation in age of those who arrive in different countries. Therefore, it is more appropriate to compare asylum seekers of approximately the same age and gender across the countries, according to Aftenposten.
The biggest group of Afghan asylum seekers in Europe are men between 18 and 34 years old. Since 2010, Norway has rejected 92 percent or more of its applicants every year, and last year the rejections were as high as 99 percent. According to Eurostat statistics, Norway worked on 895 applications throughout the last six months of 2015 and the first six months this year.
On the other hand, Germany said no to 57 percent and Italy to only 3 percent of applicants, after processing between 3,300 and 3,500 applications of men in this age group. The average in Europe is 47 percent.
"I do not claim that everyone who applies for asylum is eligible for it, but the return rate of 99 percent is very high," said Kristian Berg Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).
According to Eurostat, the number of rejected Afghan women applicants in Norway also reached the top with 86 percent last year.
Norwegian minister of migration and integration Sylvi Listhaug said it was the Directorate of Immigration (UDI) and Immigration Appeals Board (UNE) that evaluate the applications.
"I am satisfied that there are many whose applications are rejected and that Norway has a high rejection rate. The asylum institute is for those that need protection. If the applicants can live in safe areas in their home country, they shall be directed over there, rather than being granted asylum in Norway," Listhaug told Aftenposten.
Earlier this year, Listhaus announced that UDI had finished a new estimate of the situation in Afghanistan, where they concluded that none of the regions "were so unsafe that people could not be sent back over there."
However, Collett said the estimates might be influenced by many "gray zones in the cases."
"Many Afghans escape because they live in an unstable region with few possibilities. They are tired of the war and conflict and can be in danger of being recruited by armed groups, but they are not necessarily directly persecuted," Collett said.
"That is why they perhaps are still not eligible for protection," she said, adding that in Italy, Afghan people were "such a small part of the total asylum seekers that there is a small risk when giving most of them asylum."
"What's more, the authorities know that many will travel further," she said.
The numbers from Eurostat show that the percentage of Afghans who were rejected increased across the EU from 2015 to 2016. In Norway, there was a big increase due to the number of asylum seekers between 14 and 17 years of age without residence, that increased from three percent in 2015 to 20 percent in the first six months this year.
UDI told Aftenposten they had prioritized rejection cases up until now this year and, consequently, the final rejection numbers for 2016 would be somewhat lower.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende emphasized that Norway had already made an agreement with Afghanistan and the two countries had "good cooperation about migration and treatment of asylum seekers."
"Norway is among the countries that have the highest return rates among those that get rejected," he said.