Around 50 asylum seekers went on a two-hour march over the weekend to protest conditions at the Norwegian asylum reception center where they were housed. Their demonstration also sparked protests, with even one asylum advocate saying it was “unwise” of them to complain about the food.
While Norwegian officials scramble to accommodate the thousands of asylum seekers streaming into Norway, the state is facing huge costs to feed and shelter them. Officials at immigration agency UDI claim the most important thing is simply to get a roof over their heads, and asylum seekers are being put up everywhere from hastily set-up shelters to mountain hotels.
The majority have been grateful, but not all. A group of frustrated mostly male asylum seekers marched from the Kolstad asylum reception center to the police station in Sarpsborg, southern Norway, on Saturday evening to complain about the food they were served, long waiting times to get their asylum applications processed, a lack of cleanliness at the asylum center, a lack of Internet access and a lack of transport opportunities into town.
The demonstration angered some politicians including Mazyar Keshvari of the Progress Party, who came to Norway as an immigrant himself. “These ungrateful people should immediately leave the country,” Keshvari claimed.
Ann-Margrit Austenå, secretary general of the Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS), agreed it was unwise of the asylum seekers to compain about the food, since they receive chicken and meat every day plus as much rice or salad as they can eat. “But we must understand that this (the complaints) is arising from their frustration with the entire situation,” Austenå told newspaper Aftenposten.
Skjalg Sundby, manager of the asylum center, conceded that cleanliness at the center could be better. “But I don’t think there’s any reason to complain about the food,” he said. “It’s not that bad.”