Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug announced Friday that the government was earmarking another NOK 320 million (USD 40 million) to help finance settlement and integration of refugees in local communities. Around 16,000 new refugees need to be settled around the country this year alone.
“This is very good news and recognizes the good job the communities have been doing,” Gunn Marit Helgesen, leader of the local governments’ national association KS (Kommunenes Sentralforbund), told state broadcaster NRK. “We face enormous challenges ahead. This new contribution will make the job possible.”
Listhaug said around 26,000 asylum seekers are now living in asylum centers in Norway. “The numbers arriving now are historically low, and very few young refugees are arriving alone,” Listhaug said, stressing the sharp reversal from last year when a record 31,000 arrived in Norway.
Communities who take in more refugees than they’re asked to take by the state will receive NOK 50,000 extra per person, and NOK 100,000 for every underage refugee who’s accepted for settlement. “Young asylum seekers who are on their own are the most difficult to settle,” Listhaug said, noting that most townships prefer families with small children and single adults.
Integration of those granted permanent residence is “incredibly important,” Listhaug said. “Our goal is to create taxpayers who stand on their own two feet, so we’re helping the townships meet the task of doing that.”
The money will be used to help subsidize housing, speed the process of learning to speak and understand Norwegian, provide day care for children and help refugees find jobs.
Never before have so many asylum seekers been settled in Norway as during the past two years. “Integration starts with having a community to live in,” said Listhaug’s colleague Jan Tore Sanner, government minister in charge of local governments. “The municipalities have been doing a fantastic job. In 2013 they took in 6,500 refugees, last year 11,300 and this year 16,000 will be settled.”
The Parliament has yet to approve the government’s tighter immigration and asylum rules, however, with debate continuing this month.