Hostility rises against migrants
July 17, 2012
Tempers are rising against hundreds of migrants in Oslo, most of them Roma folk from Romania and Bulgaria, who continue to camp illegally in the Norwegian capital. Some Norwegians, frustrated over what they see as a lack of respect by the migrants for local authorities and residents, are threatening violence if the police or government officials don’t crack down.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Tuesday how a group of residents in the Oslo district of Årvoll, furious over a new camp set up near their homes, are now so frustrated that they’re considering a physical attack on the camp. They couldn’t understand why police hadn’t forcibly removed the campers as of Tuesday midday, not least after public health authorities ruled on Monday that the camp, set up on what amounts to a gravel pit on a disputed property in Årvoll, was dangerous.
Campers ordered to leave
The chief district doctor (bydelsoverlege) deemed the area unsafe for human habitation and ordered that the camp set up on Saturday be disbanded immediately. The migrants have set up tents and makeshift shelters amidst high piles of stones and sand that could collapse on top of them, warned the local health authority, which also noted that the property has no running water, sewage or garbage collection services. A group trying to help the migrants arranged delivery of four portable toilets, but health officials were not satisfied.
“Now the owner of the property must get folks out of the area quickly,” Torger Ødegaard, acting head of the Oslo city government, told Aftenposten. Because the camp is on private property, authorities claim the owners are primarily responsible, especially since one of them invited the migrants to the site after they were ordered to leave an earlier camp outside an Oslo church. The two partners owning the large property at Årvoll,however, appear to disagree over the issue themselves.
Meanwhile, the roughly 30 campers still on the property as of Tuesday morning have engaged in verbal battles with their neighbours, with Aftenposten reporting that one Roma woman yelled at permanent residents of the area Monday night that they had “no right to say what we will do or where we will be, nor do the police.” She called the Norwegian people “Nazis” because the migrants had been “harassed” in Oslo.
That enraged local residents, with one man yelling back at the woman. The migrants have also been the targets of what can only be described as hatred in many online debates over their begging and illegal camping in Oslo and other Norwegian cities, and on Saturday night, someone fired pyrotechnics into the Årvoll camp. No one was injured.
“This is an intolerable situation,” Ødegaard said, adding that the city cannot be held responsible for providing free camping facilities for the migrants. “You can’t just settle down where it’s a health hazard to be. Everyone is welcome in Oslo, but when you arrive as a visitor, you must be able to take care of yourself.”
Officials huddling over the issue
A stream of local politicians, health care workers, child protection authorities and even the bishop of Oslo, Ole Christian Kvarme, have visited the camp, with the health authorities informing the campers of the dangers of living in a gravel pit and telling them they must leave. One man said they didn’t want to leave, while others asked where they should go.
“That’s not a public responsibility, so I have no idea,” replied Ødegaard.
City officials were demanding that the state step in, and both Aftenposten and Norwegian Broadcsting (NRK) reported that meetings were being held on Tuesday involving several government ministers. Calls are rising for the migrants to be deported, although as citizens of countries within the European Union, they have a right to be in Norway for up to three months.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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