by Dragana Paulsen
OSLO, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Fewer asylum applicants than the budgeted 25,000 are expected to come to Norway this year, but it is still important to keep up with preparedness, the country's immigration officials and aid workers said on Tuesday.
Hakon Fenstad, deputy communications director of the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI), said the current estimate of asylum seekers is from 5,000 to 50,000 with a budget for 25,000 people, but the immigration agency would probably give even smaller number when it announces its next prognosis on June 15, according to daily newspaper VG.
The UDI did not give a precise number of how many asylum seekers are expected this year, but other parts of the country's asylum branch suggested that there might be less than 10,000 asylum seekers this year, the report said.
UDI figures show that a total of 1,407 asylum seekers have come to Norway so far this year, which is significantly fewer than the 3,444 people who applied for asylum during the first five months last year.
Last week there were just 70 people that sought asylum in Norway, while the total number in May was 195.
According to Fenstad, this is the smallest number of applicants in the last 19 years. In 1997, there were 102 asylum seekers in May and 601 people in the first five months.
UDI's director general Frode Forfang believed that the asylum numbers in Norway would be lower than last year, when a total of 31,145 asylum seekers came to the Nordic country.
There are many refugees who have arrived in Europe and have still not been registered, Forfang told VG, adding that although it is difficult to predict how the challenging situation regarding borders controls would develop, it seems that there will be significantly fewer asylum seekers than last year.
UDI officials have said that there was considerable uncertainty about the number of asylum seekers this year as several countries have launched a number of measures to stem the growing influx in Europe, including border controls.
Marit Berger Rosland, state secretary for the minister of immigration and integration, also confirmed to VG that the new prognosis will be lower than 25,000 people that the government prepared its budget for, but preparedness for refugee influx is still needed.
"The picture is however unpredictable and we see that there are more refugees that are arriving in Italy. We need to prepare us for many scenarios," she said. "I remind you that we also cancelled reception places in spring last year due to the low refugee influx. In autumn, however, we experienced record flow in just a few weeks."
Pal Nesse, a senior advisor at the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that it is important to keep up with preparedness because the situation in Europe is very uncertain. According to him, Norway should participate in a common European action to distribute refugees among the countries.
Mads Harlem, head of policy and international law at the Norwegian Red Cross, told VG that it is only a matter of time when the refugee situation in Greece explodes, but the problem would not be so big if asylum applications are processed in different countries, including Norway.