The head of Oslo’s city government, Stian Berger Røsland, has backed down from his refusal to provide migrant poor in Oslo, mostly Roma folk from Romania and Bulgaria, with free public toilets. City officials have set up portable toilets after all, at two areas where the migrants are camping illegally.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported Friday that portable toilets have been set up both at a park in Vaterland behind the Radisson Blu Hotel in downtown Oslo, and at a park in Tøyen, not far from the Munch Museum. The installation of the toilets, at city expense, marks a sharp reversal of statements made by Røsland and other politicians from the Conservative-led coalition in charge at City Hall.
Røsland has repeatedly claimed earlier that the city cannot and should not accommodate migrant poor from other countries who come to Norway and violate local camping and sanitation ordinances. Røsland has said that all visitors to Norway must be able to provide for themselves and respect local laws, adding that provision of toilets, showers or other facilities would only deepen the conflict over migrant poor that has sparked debate and frustration all summer.
Asked why toilets have appeared at two city parks despite his opposition to them, Røsland told Aftenposten it was because city sanitation workers “wanted to see if this would contribute towards improving the hygienic situation in these areas.”
He said officials in the city department handling sanitation issues, Bymiljøetaten, wanted to compare the cost of the toilets against the costs they face in trying to keep the parks clean when campers now resort to defecation and urination on streets, sidewalks and behind bushes.
“We didn’t want to overrule this professional evaluation on a purely political basis,” Røsland told Aftenposten.
Opposition parties including the Socialist Left (SV) had been calling for installation of public sanitation facilities for months, as had supporters of the migrants. Røsland stressed that his coalition’s policies hadn’t changed, and they had no intention of providing more toilets, showers or other overnight accommodation.
Many migrants have moved back downtown, also to another disputed camp at Sognsvann in Oslo, after being evicted from both a church yard and a gravel pit at Årvoll. City officials claim around 2,000 migrants are begging in Oslo at present, while others claim the number is around half that amount.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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