An abrupt halt to the influx of refugees arriving in Norway has prompted Norway’s state immigration agency UDI to cancel contracts it had to rent lodging to meet acute needs. Many of the emergency asylum centers were set up in hotels, campgrounds and other places that could provide accommodation.
“The most urgent need is to provide a roof over their heads,” UDI boss Frode Forfang said last fall as thousands of refugees from war-torn Syria, terror-plagued Iraq and other areas of conflict arrived in Norway.
His staff thus launched into renting everything from hotel rooms to taking over old military barracks, to quickly provide lodging to asylum seekers who were sleeping on the chilly sidewalks outside the police stations where they needed to register. Now the contracts they had are being allowed to expire.
Not only has the acute need for refugee accommodation eased, but UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) is opting to operate fewer but larger asylum centers around the country. It’s expensive and time-consuming to send refugees to mountain hotels that could only house around 150 asylum seekers, for example, often in remote areas.
Now UDI prefers to run much larger asylum centers that can benefit from economies of scale, with as many as 1,000 beds or even more. UDI isn’t renewing leases on hotels such as Nordheim Fjellstue in Buskerud County, the Rendalen Motel in Hedmark or the Hornsjø Hotel in Oppland County. Instead it’s opting for large centers such as Forus in Stavanger, with 1,000 beds, former military barracks and the old Bolkesjø Hotel in Telemark with 600 beds.
UDI still thinks another 33,000 refugees may arrive in Norway this year, when the weather starts warming up and it’s not as hazardous to flee over the Mediterranean or risk having to sleep outdoors. The expected influx is even more than last year, but much lower than the 100,000 UDI feared just a few months ago.
UDI and government officials still need to pressure local municipalities into agreeing to resettle refugees whose asylum appliations are approved.