Norwegians opened their wallets on Sunday and donated more than NOK 202 million during the weekend’s annual fundraising campaign on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). This year’s beneficiary was the Norwegian Refugee Council (Flyktninghjelpen).
“I’m nearly in shock,” claimed a delighted Elisabeth Rasmusson, secretary general for the council. She’d maintained a high profile in Norwegian media in the weeks leading up to the annual fundraiser, and the publicity campaign clearly paid off.
Rasmusson said she nonetheless was surprised by the level of Norwegians’ generosity. “I didn’t think we’d approach such an amount,” she said during the night, after the marathon national broadcast ended and proceeds amounted to more NOK 202 million (about USD 34 million). Money poured in via celebrity auctions, pledges over the phone, celebrity phone calls to Norwegian homes and businesses and mostly from thousands of volunteers who collected money door-to-door and on the street.
Rasmusson noted that more money will likely continue to flow in through the week, judging from earlier fundraising campaigns. Anyone still wishing to contribute, for example, can call 820 44 110, to make an automatic donation of NOK 200 (USD 33), while the Refugee Council’s donor account (8380.08.09005) will remain open and COOP grocery stores will also continue to sell donor cards called “bonger.”
Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre also opened state coffers Sunday night and donated NOK 35 million on behalf of the government. “I meet people out in the world in my role as foreign minister who are more familiar with the Norwegian Refugee Council than they are with Norway,” Støre said. “The organization isn’t known for big words, but for big deeds. I can safely say the money raised will go to those who need it most.”
Funds raised during the weekend campaign are aimed to help people fleeing wars and persecution in the worst areas of conflict around the world. The council has earmarked programs to help refugees in Colombia, Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Palestinian areas, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Some have questioned alleged hypocrisy on the part of Norwegian officials and politicians who support the campaign’s aid for refugees yet have cracked down or called for crackdowns on the number of refugees allowed to settle in Norway. Government officials insist that those who need protection will still get it, even though record numbers of rejected would-be refugees are being forcibly deported.
Carl I Hagen, the former leader of the conservative Progress Party, which long has been critical of Norway’s asylum programs and called for stricter control of immigration, was himself working the phones on NRK’s televised fundraiser for refugees. When asked whether that didn’t indicate a double standard, Hagen said no. The difference, he pointed out, was that the so-called TV-aksjon involves mostly voluntary donations as opposed to use of taxpayer money, with the exception of the government’s gift.