Hunger-striking woman ‘can stay in Norway’

Norway’s Immigration Appeals Board has indicated that it will review the case of a hunger-striking 31-year-old Palestinian woman whose family faces expulsion.

For 23 days, the woman has refused to eat in protest against a decision to deport her to Gaza along with her husband and their three-year-old son.

According to the Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers, the appeals board (Utlendingsnemnda) has said it will allow the Hamad family to remain in Norway while it reviews their residency application, newspaper Dagbladet reports.

The woman claims a return to the Gaza Strip would put their lives in danger.

Bassam Hamad said he had sought to break the good news to his wife but was unable to communicate with her after she fainted from exhaustion.

The ethics council at Arendal hospital in southern Norway concluded on Monday that the hospital did not have the legal right to force-feed the woman.

 “At the end of the day, she’s the one who has to decide,” hospital chief Per Engstrand told newspaper Fædrelandsvennen.  

While the doctor thinks the committee has made the right decision from a legal perspective, he also noted that the law runs counter to principles of medical ethics.

“As doctors we have learned to save lives. It’s not especially nice then to see somebody refuse to take nourishment,” he said.

Amnesty International Norway has also backed the woman's right to continue her hunger strike.

"First and foremost, we support the right to use non-violent methods in a political struggle. Some choose to go on hunger strike, and ultimately one can say that it's a human right to starve yourself to death," secretary general John Peder Egenæs told newspaper Vårt Land.

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Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question.