Broke immigrants told to go home

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Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm had a message over the weekend for hopeful immigrants from southern Europe who’ve been arriving in Norway in search of jobs: “Go home.” Bjurstrøm worries they won’t find jobs, and won’t be eligible for any help, either.

Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm is encouraging would-be immigrants to return home if they don't find work in Norway quickly. PHOTO: Arbeidsdepartementet/Ilja C Hendel

“If there’s no work for them, then there is no work,” Bjurstrøm told both newspaper Bergens Tidende and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She claimed she wasn’t being heartless, just practical.

“We are part of the free European labour market,” said Bjurstrøm, from the Labour Party herself. “That means folks can freely travel around and look for jobs. But if there are no jobs (for which they qualify), we as a state have no obligations towards the applicants, apart from making sure they don’t suffer from acute needs.”

Norwegian immigration and tax officials have been seeing a sharp rise in the number of people arriving in Norway from Spain, where unemployment is very high. The problem, they claim, is that many of the new arrivals speak very little English much less Norwegian. That makes it hard for them to find work, because they lack proficiency in languages other than Spanish.

“Then, in my opinion, it’s better for them to go back home where they at least may have friends and family, instead of being cold and broke here in Norway,” Bjurstrøm said.

She doesn’t think Norway will see a huge influx of immigrants from Spain, Greece or Italy. Last year, reported news bureau NTB, around 3,000 tax cards (needed to work legally in Norway) were issued to people from Spain, compared to 70,000 issued to immigrants from Poland and 80,000 to Swedes.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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