Norway’s dilemma on an immigrated convict

Noppadol Wanthaphirom during an interview with VG. Photo: Frode Hansen

Oslo City Court believes it was Noppadol Wanthaphirom, 31, who shot Einar Opsahl, 35, in the head at close range at a taxi stand in Bislett, Norway, in 2011.

He was sentenced to 18 years in prison last September, but on Tuesday, Jan 15, Wanthaphirom will file an appeal to the Court of Appeal. He denies having committed the murder.

Wanthaphirom’s appeal, if rejected, will mark his tenth sentence in Norway – among others include threats, violence and drug crime. However, it is still unclear whether he may be expelled from the country.

False Identity
The reason of uncertainty states back to the decision made by then-Premier Kjell Magne Bondevik’s first government, known as “the centre government,” in 1994.

In 1994, the Immigration authorities suspected that a number of families who had immigrated from Laos in the mid-1980s had given a false identity and in fact, they were Thai nationals. The order concerned a total of 78 people. Dozens of them chose to leave Norway when the permit was revoked.

In December 1998, the then-Minister of Justice Aud-Inger Aure (Christian Democratic Party) decided that those who migrated to the country with “Laos project” would get amnesty if they presented Thai passport and proved their identity.

The reason was given that the immigrants have lived in the country for a long time and had a strong connection to Norway. There also was a great emphasis on the interests of their children.

“That’s why I got that name,” said Noppadol Wanthaphirom of ‘Yusuf Manisavahn,’ a name known to his friends and in Oslo’s criminal underworld. His mother registered the name to the authority when he first entered the country.

After the Minister of Justice Aure has given the family amnesty, the residence permit is supposed to be renewed every year. However, the renewal requirement must be sought by the deadlines.

But when Wanthaphirom was imprisoned in 2006, his permit was expired and he has since stayed illegally in the country. However, so far, he has not been made ​any expulsion order. The matter is still under consideration by the Directorate of Immigration (UDI).

“I have lived in Norway ever since I was four years old. I’ve grown up in this country. I cannot understand how I sustain myself here illegally,” said Wanthaphirom.

He said he has no relation to Thailand. He cannot read or write Thai. The whole family lives in Norway.

“I’ve been going to nursery school here. I have no memories of Thailand. All my childhood memories are from Norway,” he added.

Recent Murder
The murder charge Wanthaphirom was accused of was very brutal. Einar Opsahl, 35, was a random victim, and police believed that his death was a result from misunderstanding.

One police theory has assumed that Opsahl opened the door of a car he thought was a pirate taxi. The shooter inside the vehicle, who was on a planned drug delivery, thinking that the perpetrator was interfering the process, fired bullets at him.

Hot Debate
The murder case has received considerable attention, and in October last year, Wanthaphirom’s lack of permit caused a stir in the Parliament.

In response to MP Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr’s inquiry, the Minister of Justice Grete Faremo said that there must be an assessment of each individual case.

“After the Immigration Act 70, a foreign national cannot be expelled if the foreign national’s connection to the country will be disproportionate to the alien himself or immediate family members,” writes Faremo.

“In some cases, it would be disproportionate to expel the foreigner, even if he is convicted of a serious crime. Factors that may play a role in such evaluation include his arrival in Norway which in this case was during his early years, his ties to Norway compared to their home country and whether he has family/children here.”

Immigration Authority has three times previously considered expelling Wanthaphirom – in 1999, 2001 and 2004. None of them has been made final. His residency status is still unclear.

“I cannot say much about the details, but we cannot revoke his residency for the fact that this was a person who was very young when he came to Norway. He has a strong connection to the land which makes the considered cases uncommenced,” State Secretary Pål K. Lønseth told VG last October.

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