Asylum seekers whose applications have been rejected as being unfounded should no longer be given free bed and board, according to Trygve Nordby, head of the Immigration Directorate. Mr Nordby believes that this would scare off other bogus asylum seekers. Norway is Europes most popular country for asylum seekers per head of population. Never before have so many asylum seekers been housed at Norwegian refugee reception centres, and there is no room for more. The Immigration Directorates proposal applies to asylum seekers whose applications are stamped “presumed unfounded” when they arrive in this county and are subsequently rejected. 2,000 to 3,000 asylum seekers are currently lodged at refugee reception centres because the police do not have the capacity to escort them out of the country. 1,000 of these could be affected by the Immigration Directorates proposal. “There is no doubt that many people cynically exploit the fact that the police do not come and get them to keep on enjoying free bed and board even though their applications have been rejected. They just stay put,” said Mr Nordby. State Secretary at the Local Government and Regional Affairs Ministry Kristin Ørman Johansen said she favours the plan, adding that the Ministry will evaluate the proposal in the coming months.
Broadside for Bondevik (Dagsavisen)
According to Labours party secretary, Martin Kolberg, the current swing to the right in Norwegian politics is the worst since the German occupation during world war two. Jon Lilltun, leader of the Christian Democratic Partys parliamentary group, said Mr Kolbergs comments demeaned the public debate. Mr Kolberg was addressing the annual conference of the Labour Partys Nordland branch when he said: “It is a mystery how Kjell Magne Bondevik can let himself be taken hostage by the strongest swing to the right this country has seen since the Germans went home. The Willoch government [in the mid-eighties] was just a light breeze by comparison.” The party secretary was unusually sharp-tongued as he addressed party activists. With the gestures and oratory of a latter-day Martin Tranmæl, Labours legendary pre-war ideologue, Mr Kolberg urged the party once more into the breach. Mr Lilletun called Mr Kolbergs comparison with the occupation “unworthy” and said it demeaned the political debate. “I suggest Mr Kolberg reins in the rhetoric, and comes up with some constructive political proposals instead,” said Mr Lilletun.
Socialist Left Party and Centre Party reject aid without UN (Aftenposten/Sunday)
The Socialist Left Party and Centre Party have reacted strongly to indications from the Government that it will support reconstruction efforts in Iraq even though the UN is not in charge. However, Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and his cabinet have the backing of a parliamentary majority. The Government will contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq regardless of whether it is the UN or the USA that rules the country. Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen expressed surprise that the Government should have issued this carte blanche. She said Norway should instead demand that the UN take control when the peace was to be won. According to Centre Party leader Åslaug Haga, Norway should reject any request for help from the USA at this juncture. But the Government does not risk facing problems in the Storting. Both the Progress Party and Labour back the Governments line.
No open borders for Iraqi refugees (Aftenposten/Saturday)
Local Government and Regional Affairs Minister Erna Solberg has said Norway will not extend collective protection to refugees from Iraq. The Government does not want a repeat of what happened with Kosovo refugees in 1999. Ms Solberg said that the decision on Kosovo was prompted by an extraordinary situation in which there was no other option. “To do something on a scale that counts for the refugees themselves would be disproportionately expensive if it were done in Norway,” said Ms Solberg. She also pointed out that the policy of collective protection was not terribly effective from a repatriation point of view.
Support for victims of war (Dagsavisen/Saturday)
The victims of war were the focus of the anti-war demonstrators gathered in Oslo on Saturday. Fund-raising efforts replaced the large-scale anti-war demonstrations and marked a new phase in opposition to the war. The Peace Initiative No War against Iraq held a small demonstration of mourning outside the US Embassy in Oslo, while 150 Red Cross volunteers collected money for the humanitarian relief effort. Monica Juel of the Norwegian Red Cross said that they had received enormous support from the citizens of Oslo. At the end of last week the Norwegian Red Cross had raised NOK 1 million through telephone donations and bank transfers.
- According to the March tracker poll, supporters of EU membership continue to hold a clear lead. 49.5 per cent of those questioned said Norway should join the EU, while 38.1 per cent said they opposed EU membership. Compared with the February poll, support for EU membership is holding steady, while opposition has increased for the second month running this time by 1.7 percentage points.
- Immigrant teenagers who have attended Norwegian pre-school day-care facilities do better at lower secondary school than those who did not.
- Elderly people risk receiving a lower level of home care if they do not give up smoking. Both state registered and state enrolled nurses may have the right to refuse to work in the homes of people who smoke, according to a circular from the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration.
- According to a report published by Amnesty International, Norway is one of several countries which is neglecting human rights. Amnesty claims the enormous focus on the war in Iraq has led several countries to commit human rights violations. The Norwegian government has been criticized for its decision to put Iraqi refugees applications for asylum on ice for the duration of the war in Iraq.
Todays comment from Dagbladet
In an interview with Dagsavisen, Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik admitted that the EEA Agreement had robbed Norway of more power than he anticipated when the agreement was signed. He said he sees the agreements weaknesses more clearly today than when it was being negotiated in the early nineties. Nevertheless, the PM feels the EEA Agreement is a far better alternative than a free-trade agreement, like the one Norway had prior to 1994. According to Mr Bondevik, a free-trade agreement would be “a very bad alternative because it would cover so much less than the EEA Agreement.” This is the starting point from which Mr Bondevik will retreat to ponder his own position on Norways future relations with the EU. He acknowledges that the EEA Agreement is worse for Norway than he anticipated. He states that a free-trade agreement would be a much worse alternative. On this basis, many people would have drawn the conclusion that full Norwegian membership of the EU was the best solution. But not Mr Bondevik. If there had been a referendum today, he would have voted no. He says so, in the full knowledge that there will be no referendum today. Thus speaks a politician who is completely honest in his uncertainties. Fair enough. Thus speaks a politician who does not know where the road goes or what the objective is. That is worse. Thus speaks a politician who wants to keep all his options open and not offend either supporters or opponents of EU membership. That is Bondevik to a tee.