Migrants ordered to move on again

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This summer’s odyssey of migrant poor in Oslo entered a new chapter on Friday when they once again were ordered to break camp and move out of a gravel pit where many had settled last weekend. City officials changed their minds about the camp for the second time, re-declaring it as unsafe, and this time both owners of the private property agreed.

That means owners Albert Kristian Hæhre and Vanessa Quintavalle needed to inform the group of campers, most of them Roma folk from Romania and Bulgaria, that they no longer could stay on their property at Årvoll in Oslo. The property is zoned for development of an equestrian center but the owners instead had been extracting rocks and gravel from the site, turning it into the quarry where dozens of migrants started pitching tents last Saturday.

Neighbourhood conflict
The quarry activity already had been a source of conflict between the owners and their neighbours at Årvoll, and when Quintavalle invited the migrants to use it as camp, the conflict escalated. Many were relieved that the camp started being vacated on Friday. It was unclear where the migrants would go now, since police are enforcing city laws against camping on public property elsewhere in Oslo.

State officials are now considering allowing municipalities to impose restrictions on begging, but not the ban some politicians are seeking as a means of discouraging more poor migrants from heading for Norway. A proposed ban on begging is expected to be a major campaign issue in next year’s national elections.

State efforts failed
Meanwhile, state government officials admit that their efforts to help integrate and improve opportunities for Roma folk resident in Norway haven’t functioned as intended. Hardly any Roma have gained employment and few have taken advantage of educational and training programs being offered and funded with several million kroner in state support.

Officials say they’re disappointed over the low level of participation by Roma in the assistance programs, while Roma leaders claim the programs don’t meet their needs. Most of the Roma with whom state and city officials have had contact receive state welfare payments, and now calls are rising to impose tougher eligibility requirements for the welfare support.

State vs city dispute over responsibility
Justice Minister Grete Faremo and Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm, both from the Labour Party, maintained earlier this week that local governments are most responsible for both the migrant poor and resident Roma folk with Norwegian passports. City officials remain frustrated over how and what they should do, since it’s the state’s responsibility to control when migrants arrive in the country and when they should leave (within three months). Political leaders in Oslo have refused to provide camping sites, toilets and showers, contending that all visitors must be able to take care of themselves.

Bishop Tor B Jørgensen of the state church in Bodø, frustrated over his own city’s failure to provide facilities for migrants, took matters into his own hands this week and invited several to set up camp in the garden of his own state-supported home. Three tents, a grill and other camping equipment were in place by Friday.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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