Migrants allowed to stay in gravel pit

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City officials changed their minds on Tuesday and decided to withdraw an order to evacuate a camp set up in a gravel pit for migrant poor who have arrived in Norway this summer, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria.

The officials decided that after some basic improvements, the property wasn’t as hazardous as they had first declared on Monday. The property is owned by a private real estate investment firm, and one of its two partners had invited the migrants, most of them Roma folk, to settle there over the weekend. The other partner wasn’t informed of her invitation and initially objected, but now seems resigned to allow the campers to stay.

Meanwhile, state officials made it clear they’re not getting involved in the issue that has dominated newspaper headlines and broadcasts for the past week and angered many Norwegians. Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm of the Labour Party admitted there wasn’t much the state could do regarding calls to immediately deport the hundreds of mostly Roma people who have been begging and camping illegally in Oslo and many other Norwegian cities and towns for months.

Bjurstrøm told Norwegian Broadcasting(NRK) that those with passports from a country within the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Liechtenstien and Iceland) have a legal right to stay in Norway for at least three months. Since begging is not illegal in Norway, officials have no right to deport them either, but Bjurstrøm stressed that the migrants had no right to claim any social welfare benefits in Norway.

Justice Minister Grete Faremo, meanwhile, harshly criticized calls from opposition parties to deport the migrants. Faremo, also from the Labour Party, likened such calls to “shivers from the past,” while both she and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg decried the “hateful” comments about Roma folk circulating in online debates and also among some political leaders.

Stoltenberg, returning from a short summer holiday, appealed for “dignity” from his fellow Norwegians and told NRK he never thought he’d hear such hateful comments, or see such signs of persecution, in Norway.

The migrants’ illegal camps and now the sanctioned camp at Årvoll in Oslo continue to stir great controversy, however, and city government leaders remain frustrated as well. They had hoped for support from the state government in dealing with the hundreds of migrants turning up in Oslo this summer, and didn’t get it.

Nor did they get the administrative support from the regional authorities at Årvoll, who reversed Monday’s objections to the camp and decided that danger of rock and gravel slides within the quarry had been addressed with security fences. They also approved the portable toilet facilities and supplies of jugged water being brought into the area for the migrants.

“We’re seeing another situation than we saw yesterday,” acting district director Kristin Enstad told NRK. “We have no reason to shut down the camp now.” She said the authorities would continue to monitor the situation.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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