In an unusual alliance, the controversial Soldiers of Odin anti-immigration group is joining forces with a volunteer group formed last year to help newly arrived asylum seekers in Oslo. Newspaper Dagsavisen reported that Soldiers of Odin, which has been branded as a vigilante group, is trying to improve its image.
“I was quite surprised when Soldiers of Odin called and asked to have a meeting,” Mohsan Raja, spokesman for the volunteers who call themselves Nattevaktene (Night guards) of Tøyen, told Dagsavisen. Tøyen is the working class area of Oslo where hundreds of asylum seekers were arriving every day late last summer and autumn. The local police station charged with processing asylum seekers’ applications had no capacity to register so many people, forcing many of them to sleep on the cold concrete outside the station.
The Nattevaktene group assisted them with food, clothing, blankets and a tent where they could try to warm up. After the refugee influx abated, the group now concentrates on collecting donations and creating activities for asylum seekers, to help them adjust to life in Norway. On Saturday members of the Soldiers of Odin and volunteers from Nattevaktene were due to work side by side selling cakes, to raise money for the children of asylum seekers living in Mortensrud on Oslo’s east side.
“Our goal is to be recognized as also helping those who need help,” Alexander Vinar of the Soldiers of Odin told Dagsavisen, four months after criticism of the group peaked. He claimed there had been “a lot of internal clean-up” in the group after several members were linked to neo-Nazi groups and their presence on the streets of several Norwegian cities was viewed as threatening. Now, Vinar claims, “cooperating with people of foreign origin is positive for us.” He said the group now helps drug addicts ad homeless people.
While Raja was open to cooperation with Soldiers of Odin and chose to take them at their word, police appeared skeptical. “I’m not aware of this cooperation,” Roger Andresen, deputy police chief in Oslo, told Dagsavisen. He added that the Oslo Police District sees no need for the Soldiers of Odin or other similar groups that take it upon themselves to patrol the streets.