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August 8, 2006

It's official: Iranians are everywhere, even in the North Pole

Immigrants warmly welcomed in Norwegian territory near North Pole
Longyearbyen is Svalbard's biggest settlement
REUTERS, Tuesday 04 July 2006

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard has become a haven for immigrants, because an unusual treaty says they do not need a visa or permit to work and live there.

The Norwegian territory, roughly the size of Ireland and about 1,000km (600 miles) from the North Pole, is the only place in Western Europe with this unique facility. Longyearbyen is Svalbard's biggest settlement and has about 1,800 residents

Per Sefland, Norway's governor on the archipelago, said: "If you're able to find a job, you have the right according to the treaty to come here."

The treaty was signed by World War I victors in Paris in 1920. It gave sovereignty over Svalbard to Norway, conditional on there being no barrier to entry.

It states: "The nationals of all the high contracting parties [signatories] shall have equal liberty of access and entry for any reason or object whatever to the waters, fjords and ports of the territories."...

East Europeans also live and work in Longyearbyen and the pizzeria is run by Iranian brothers. In all, there are about 25 nationalities living in the town.

Hans-Henrik Hartmann, the head of the legal unit at the Norwegian government's immigration department, said: "If an asylum seeker is refused residence in Norway he can settle in Svalbard so long as he can get there and is able to pay for himself."

"It's not a good idea to spread the impression that the people coming here have found their lucky life - it's too cold and too difficult to find a job"

Per Sefland, governor of Svalbard

In the past, immigrants who have been refused a visa for mainland Norway have moved to Longyearbyen, lived there for seven years and been awarded Norwegian citizenship.

But there are two hitches to Svalbard life - the weather, temperatures in winter can fall to -40C, and limited social services.

The governor has the right to throw people off the island if they cause trouble or cannot find work or accommodation.

Sefland said: "It's not a good idea to spread the impression that the people coming here have found their lucky life. It's too cold and too difficult to find a job," he said >>> Full text

Sent by Parsi

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