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Monday, July 15, 2024

Proposed law aims to protect au pairs

The Norwegian government is proposing a new law aimed at protecting foreigners who temporarily move into Norwegian homes as an au pair. The program is supposed to be a cultural exchange, but au pairs all too often have found themselves exploited, even abused.

Immigration agency UDI is already phasing in new rules to better monitor the au pair program. Now the Justice Ministry is also acting on concerns that have been raised for years, proposing a new law that would impose a one- to two-year quarantine on Norwegians found to have violated terms of the au pair program. Violations can range from demanding the au pair to work more hours than agreed, being placed in living quarters outside the family home, or worse.

Police recommend stricter measures
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Tuesday that the police recommend even stricter measures, with a quarantine period for five to 10 years for families found guilty of human trafficking or abuse. Young women arriving in Norway as au pairs have, in the worst cases, but subjected to assault and even rape, and police want to prevent their attackers from being able to secure au pairs again any time soon.

In their response to the justice ministry’s call for comment on the proposed law, police inspector Anette Berger stated that a recent court verdict in Oslo is a concrete example of how au pairs can be vulnerable to serious crime in Norway. The verdict found a host family guilty of human trafficking involving two au pairs.

Others, including the Catholic aid organization Caritas, responded that today’s au pair programs are based on a power structure where the au pair is always in the weaker position. Under terms of the program, though, host families are obligated to offer free room and board, pay the au pair at least NOK 4,000 a month and cover the costs of Norwegian classes, insurance and the au pair’s travel back home. In return, the au pair can be asked to do light housekeeping and child minding, but not for more than five hours a day or 30 hours in the course of a week.

Embassy supports quarantine
The vast majority of au pairs in Norway come from the Philippines – 1,539 of the 1,829 registered in Norway last year, according to statistics from immigration agency UDI. While many land in good homes, others are known to be exploited and find themselves in what one au pair told Aftenposten was “a desperate situation.”

The Philippines Embassy in Oslo has been following the problem closely and, wrote Aftenposten, is keeping track of families found guilty of exploitation. An embassy staff member told Aftenposten that the system in Norway is generally quite good, but said the embassy supports a quarantine system to weed out abusers.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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