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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Millions more to fund refugee needs

Three goverment ministers proposed boosting this year’s state budget by another NOK 227.1 million, in order to register and accommodate the large numbers of refugees who have been arriving in Norway since May. The money will mostly go towards funding police efforts to process them all, and to more quickly settle those granted asylum in local communities.

Government ministers Solveig Horne (left), Anders Anundsen and Jan Tore Sanner intend to increase the state budget by more than NOK 200 million, to fund the influx of refugee arrivals in Norway. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet
Government ministers Solveig Horne (left), Anders Anundsen and Jan Tore Sanner intend to increase the state budget by more than NOK 200 million, to fund the influx of refugee arrivals in Norway. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

A total of NOK 97.1 million was proposed for the police so they can increase capacity to register new asylum seekers in Norway. The office in Oslo that’s been responsible for such registration (Politiets Utlendingsenhet, in the city’s Tøyen district) has been overwhelmed by the demand, leading to situations where refugees waiting in line have slept on the floor of the office or outdoors. Justice Minister Anders Anundsen, who’s in charge of the police in Norway, said it was important to dramatically add staffing and other resources “both for security reasons and for more efficient processing of applications.”

Another NOK 5 million was allocated to the state immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet), which is in charge of further processing and sheltering refugees. UDI needs to greatly expand capacity at its reception centers and to establish new asylum centers. The situation now, Anundsen acknowledged, is “extremely demanding.”

Millions earmarked for young refugees
The government is also allocating another NOK 3 million to help meet the needs of young asylum seekers under the age of 18 who’ve been arriving alone in much larger numbers as well. The state children’s welfare agency Barnevernet will get another NOK 65 million to establish new homes for the underage refugees by expanding it care centers, according to government minister Solveig Horne.

Money is also being set aside for an online service aimed at coordinating volunteers who want to work at the centers and otherwise help integrate new refugees. The ministers said NOK 5 million was also earmarked to help refugees with psychological problems resulting from trauma, since many are coming from war zones and areas where terrorists have seized control.

An additional NOK 50 million was also earmarked to help speed up settlement of refugees in community through subsidized rental units, said Jan Tore Sanner, the government minister in charge of local governments. The government hopes to boost the number of such housing units to 1,700, up from 1,000 last year. And NOK 47.1 million was proposed in additional funding for Norway’s participation for the Triton refugee rescue operation in the Mediterranean, which has cost more to operate than expected.

15,000 beds needed this year
A stream of other new local measures are being put in place to meet the refugee influx, with some high schools that take in boarders opening their doors for both cultural programs and overnight accommodation. Prime Minister Erna Solberg has said that she thinks Norway will need to accommodate around 15,000 refugees by the end of the year.

In an interview with newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) this week, while on her way to a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Solberg said Norway would help those who arrive in Norway but claimed her government still advocated “restrictive” asylum policies. “We must remember that many of those coming now are not from Syria,” Solberg told DN. “When a huge movement first starts, others join in. Germany has a big challenge with asylum seekers from the Balkans. Norway doesn’t, because we have been clear and consistent that refugees from the Balkans will not be approved.” Norway doesn not believe they are need of protection, like many of those from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or Eritrea are.

Solberg said she was glad that many refugees had received a warm welcome from ordinary citizens trying to help them. She cautioned, though, that the “new mood” may shift if many are found not to have needed protection. She acknowledged the current “refugee crisis,” but claimed it was “blending together” with a mass migration that Europe was not prepared or obliged to meet. Berglund



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