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Friday, July 12, 2024

Roma dispute spurs ugly incidents

Police are once again being called upon to resolve increasingly ugly incidents over whether or how Norwegians should accommodate migrant poor from Europe. As state and local officials fail to find solutions themselves, and hold each other responsible for the migrants, police are now being asked to investigate charges of racism.

Police in Oslo have been busy responding to complaints over migrant poor in Oslo, and now their counterparts in northern Norway are being called upon as well. PHOTO: Views and News

News bureau NTB reported Wednesday that state prosecutors have asked the West Finnmark Police District to investigate what a former politician in Kautokeino, Per Egil Eira of the Progress Party, wrote on a social media site after he’d been unwillingly included in a support group for Roma folk in Norway. The Roma, who make up much of the migrant poor, have stirred controversy over their illegal camping, begging on street corners and a prompting a long list of complaints to police, who want a ban on begging to be restored.

“I have not been asked to be a member of this cursed idiot group,” Eira wrote on the support group’s Facebook page last week. “As far as I’m concerned these idiot Roma folk can be thrown into the sea and asked to swim (home). Or I could wish that someone would cut them into small pieces and use them as dog food. Get me out of this group here.”

Eira’s remarks were reported in Tromsø-based newspaper Nordlys, and now state prosecutor Lars Fause  has asked the police to investigate whether Eira has violated state laws against racism. “I expect them (the police) to follow up on my request,” Fause told Nordlys.

Eira himself has admitted that he was provoked upon learning of his unwanted inclusion in the Roma support group too early in the morning. “I reacted first and foremost to being included as a member without being asked,” Eira said. “It was a bit early, so I was a bit grumpy.”

Advocate for Norwegian poor dumps Labour
In another politically fused incident, the head of a support group for the downtrodden (Rettferd for tapere, literally “Justice for losers”) has abandoned the Labour Party after 40 years of membership because he felt party officials were pressuring him to revoke a letter he’d written to the editor of newspaper Oppland Arbeiderblad. In the letter, published last week, Labour veteran and longtime leader of Rettferd for tapere Ola Ødegaard wrote that he agreed with Progress Party boss Siv Jensen that Roma folk should be sent out of Norway. “With such nice cars and equipment and human resources, they don’t need to exploit Norway and our resources in competition with poor Norwegians,” Ødegaard wrote.

That set off varying accounts of a response from Tommy Skar, communications adviser for the trade union federation LO and a former Labour Party employee. Skar called Ødegaard and told him his call for Roma to leave Norway was inappropriate and could jeopardize support for his own group.

Skar claims he “rang Ola as a friend,” while Ødegaard claims he felt threatened by Skar to “withdraw my private opinions to save my own skin. If I didn’t do that, someone in LO or Labour would write an article in Oppland Arbeiderblad targeting me.” So Ødegaard dropped out of the party.

War of words
Labour has been in a war of words with the Progress Party over the Roma issue as politicians continue to argue over who’s responsible for dealing with the challenges they and other migrant poor pose as thousands have arrived in Norway this summer. The state government is responsible for all immigration to Norway but doesn’t seem able to control the influx or monitor their legal or illegal presence in Norway. Opposition politicians including Per Sandberg of the Progress Party complained in newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday that the state is “shoving responsibility over to the kommuner (local governments), while local politicians in many Norwegian cities including Oslo see no obligation to accommodate the migrants. Officials in Trondheim have provided them with some sanitation facilities, others claim that all visitors must be able to legally fend for themselves or leave.

State Secretary Torgeir Larsen, shown here speaking at a conference earlier this year, suggests Norwegians should get used to the presence of migrant poor in the country. PHOTO: Views and News

State Secretary Torgeir Larsen in the Foreign Ministry told Dagsavisen on Wednesday that Norwegians “must reconcile themselves” to the prospect that increasing numbers of migrant poor will arrive in Norway, which has a much stronger economy and social welfare programs than most other countries in Europe.

“When Norway is so lucky to be in a unique situation in Europe, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Europeans seek opportunity here,” Larsen told Dagsavisen. He also repeated claims of how the Norwegian government is providing financial aid through the governments of Romania and Bulgaria to help Roma folk at home.

Many Roma have complained, though, that they see no sign of the aid and suspect it disappears through allegedly widespread corruption. Larsen offered no details of how he and his colleagues are monitoring how Norwegian aid is used, or what Norwegian officials are doing to ensure desired results.

While his government colleague from the Labour Party, Labour Minister Hanne Bjurstrøm, has advised out-of-work Spaniards to simply “go home” if they fail to find jobs in Norway, Larsen now indicates that Norwegians should “understand” and accept that European “crisis refugees” will arrive. He offered no proposals for how or whether they should be accommodated.

The latest large organized camp set up by Roma folk in Oslo, meanwhile, was disbanded Tuesday night after the campers were ordered to leave what amounted to a gravel pit at Årvoll because it was deemed unfit for human habitation. Some of the campers headed back into downtown Oslo while others set up new camp near a popular lake called Sognsvann, in the hills above Oslo and at the final stop of a city metro line.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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