Skepticism grows over immigration

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A new study suggests that half of all Norwegians want to shut Norway’s borders to new immigrants. Just as many believe integration efforts have failed. Immigrants from North America, Asia, Africa and other parts of the world only make up around 10 percent of the population in Norway, but it doesn’t appear many more are welcome.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported Thursday that the study, conducted as an “Integration Barometer” for the state agency dealing with integration issues (Integrerings- og mangfoldsdirektoratet), also revealed that fully 80 percent of Norwegians think citizenship in Norway should only be granted to those who pass a test in the Norwegian language. Proficiency in Norwegian has recently become a prerequisite for most immigrants.

Chris Parson, who moved to Norway from Canada four years ago, told Aftenposten that he had to choose between taking a 300-hour language course or trying to pass a language test on his own. He chose the test, saying that “the problem with the course is that many take part because they must, without following along.” He agrees with his Norwegian partner and others who believe integration methods need some renewal.

Record high opposition
Never before have more Norwegians indicated that they want to halt immigration, according to the study. It showed that 53.7 percent of 1,380 persons questioned by TNS Gallup responded that they did not want more immigrants in Norway. In 2005, when the integration agency conducted its first such study, the corresponding figure was 45.8 percent, reports Aftenposten.

At the same time, 48.7 percent believe integration efforts are not going well at all, up 12 percentage points since 2005. Around 60 percent put the blame on Norwegians themselves, for deficient contributions towards successful integration of newcomers into Norwegian society, while 83.5 percent blame the immigrants for failing to integrate. That failure is often tied to failure to learn the Norwegian language, even though proficiency in Norwegian can be a daunting challenge for even the most highly educated adults moving to Norway.

State statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) has reported that 65,065 persons immigrated to Norway to 2010, more than twice the amount in 2005. Another 10,064 sought asylum in Norway last year, down from 17,226 in 2009. As of January 1, around 500,000 immigrants were living in Norway, which has a population of 4.9 million and is expected to pass 5 million later this year.

Some positive views
The new study indicates that Norway, which produced record numbers of emigrants itself when it was still a poor and developing nation, clearly continues to struggle with accepting immigrants now that it’s become an affluent nation. Despite the rising skepticism portrayed in the study, some portions of it showed more positive views on Norway’s relatively recent transition from a largely homogenous to a more multi-cultural society.

Fully 80 percent, for example, agreed that it was “positive” for children to go to school with other children from “various cultures,” and around half of those questioned think Norwegian businesses should employ more immigrants.

The study also indicated that many more Norwegians now have regular contact with immigrants than they did in 2005, and nearly 90 percent said those immigrants who are granted permanent residence in Norway should have the same rights as Norwegians.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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