Norway’s Refugee Dilemma

Nigerian Tina Jane and her daughter lived four years after staying at the reception center in Norway temporarily. Then they received their residence permit. After too many years in the reception, the granted permit became a hope for their new life in the country. But their disappointment continued, because the family had to live another eight months in the reception before a municipality agreed to receive them.

– It took a very long time. Only now I can live like a normal human being. I can go to a place that I can call mine. I have a home, says Tina Jane to Norwegian daily Aftenposten. She also noted how difficult it was for her little daughter to live like this. 

Questions around Responbility

Aftenposten writes that only 64 of the 368 municipalities agreed to accept as many refugees as the government wants. 27 municipalities simply reject, while 204 municipalities receive less than the government has requested. 73 municipalities have not even responded to the request of Integration and Diversity Directorate, IMDI.

– This is serious and sad. This means that children will live for asylum for an unnecessarily long time, says Janne Olise Raanes, head of Norway program of Save the Children. Save the Children has sent letters to all the municipalities in which they are encouraged to accept more refugees.- Children are the biggest loser. It is a shameful situation for both the municipalities and the state. State pushes responsibility down and municipalities are talking about how difficult the task is, says Raanes.

She also says that faster settlement will not only be to the individual child’s best interests, but it will also be for the benefit of society with saster settlement, faster integration and less unnecessary pressure on the asylum centers. 

– When local authorities say it costs too much, so the government must listen. It is clear that some municipalities have integration challenges. But the solution is not to let the children live in reception centers. These are children that the State has granted permission to stay in Norway. It is unacceptable that each municipality say no, says Raanes.

Tina Jane, on the other hand, justifies the municipalities’ challenging situation. – Life in a reception center is terribly sad. A lot of people come and go with very difficult destinies. At the same time I realize that it is difficult for the municipality. They pay everything for us and cover the rent, says she.

Who comes to Norway as refugees?

There are two main groups of refugees who come to Norway. The first group consists of asylum seekers who come to Norway on their own initiative, and the second group consists of resettlement refugees. Resettlement refugees are refugees who cannot return to their home country and cannot be granted residence in the country in which they are staying. Resettlement refugees’ cases are processed by and, they are recognised by, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) before they arrive in Norway. The Norwegian parliament, the Storting, stipulates a quota for the number of resettlement refugees Norway accepts each year.  In 2010, Norway accepted 1,300 resettlement refugees. Most of the 2010 quota was reserved for Eritrean, Afghan, Palestinian, Burmese and Iranian refugees. Minimum 55 per cent were to be women and girls, while 15 per cent of the places were for vulnerable female refugees.

Also, there are asylum seekers who come to Norway on their own initiative and apply for protection from the Norwegian authorities. In the end of September, the Directorate of Immigration (UDI) had received 7,299 asylum applications. Many of these applicants come from countries badly affected by war or previous conflicts. The biggest groups of asylum seekers come from Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan. Not everyone who applies for asylum in Norway is entitled to protection or a residence permit. 

Persons with refugee background in Norway

A total of 163 500 persons with a refugee background were living in Norway on 1 January 2012. These persons accounted for 3.3 per cent of the Norwegian population, and 30 per cent of all immigrants in Norway. The two largest groups were persons with a refugee background from Iraq and Somalia.

During 2011, the number of persons with a refugee background increased by 5 800. With an increase of 1 500, the persons with an Eritrean background had the strongest growth, followed by Somalia and Afghanistan, with a growth of 1 200 and 800 persons respectively. These are the same three groups that increased the most in 2010.

Around 163 500 persons with a refugee background were living in Norway on 1 January 2012. Of this, 119 100 were registered as principal applicants, while the rest (44 400) came as dependents. Iraqis have been the largest group since 2003, and also made up the largest group in 2011, with a total of 20 600 persons. The second largest group consisted of persons with a Somali background (20 100).

Most youngsters, most men and most with Norwegian citizenship

Male refugees were overrepresented, with around 10 200 more men than women as at 1 January 2012. A total of 44 per cent of persons with a refugee background were aged 20-39, while the corresponding figure for the population as a whole was 27 per cent.

A total of 63 per cent of persons with a refugee background had Norwegian citizenship. Oslo was still the county with the most residents with a refugee background; 43 400 persons. This is 27 per cent of the whole population with a refugee background, 31 per cent of all immigrants in Oslo and 7 per cent of the city’s total population. A total of 19 300 persons with a refugee background lived in Akershus, and 12 100 in Rogaland on 1 January 2012. The lowest number of persons with a refugee background is found in Finnmark, with 1 500.

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