A majority of Norwegians are not opposed to taking in at least as many refugees as Norway already does, according to a new survey. That’s not many, currently around 2,000 a year, but just 23 percent think Norway should take in fewer.
The new survey was conducted by research firm Sentio for newspaper Klassekampen. It showed that 44 percent of those polled think Norway should continue to take in as many refugees as it does today, while 29 percent think Norway should take in more. Only 4 percent were undecided, an indication that most Norwegians have clear opinions on the hotly debated asylum issue.
The results are significant after Prime Minister Erna Solberg declared last week that she wants Norway to help EU countries deal with the migrant crisis they’re facing. Hundreds of thousands of people desperate enough to risk crossing the Mediterranean in rickety boats and rafts from the coast of North Africa continue to languish in refugee camps, internment centers or on the streets of southern European countries like Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain. Those countries have been the first port of entry into the EU for migrants who survive their flight from war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Pål Nesse of the Norwegian refugee aid organization Flyktninghjelpen told Klassekampen that the survey results “show that there’s a positive basic attitude within the Norwegian population towards taking in refugees.”
Uncertainty over the system
The survey also attempted to measure Norwegians’ attitudes to the more recent debate over the asylum system itself and whether asylum seekers should be allowed to apply for asylum when they arrive in Norway. Under the current system, they can be sent back to the first EU country where they arrived and Norway has often done so, returning refugees to Italy, for example, where they must stay while their applications for asylum are being processed.
According to Sentio’s survey, 42 percent of Norwegians think the refugees should be allowed to apply for asylum in Norway and remain in Norway while their cases are evaluated. Another 34 percent rather support an EU proposal, which Solberg also has supported, to set up asylum processing centers outside the EU, for example in North Africa or Albania.
Fully 24 percent were unsure, prompting Nesse to claim note that the high number shows an equally high degree of uncertainty among Norwegians regarding the asylum system. He thinks many politicians have created much of the uncertainty.
System not ‘out of control’
“Many people have the impression that the asylum system is out of control, but the reality is something else,” Nesse told Klassekampen. “So far this year only 50,000 asylum seekers and migrants have come to Europe, a number that should be able to be handled.”
More than 30,000 refugees arrived in Norway alone during the major influx of 2015, before the EU all but closed its borders to the uncontrolled waves of people fleeing Syria, Afghanistan and other troubled countries. Norway’s immigration agency UDI (Utlendingsdirektoratet) has since reported some of the lowest numbers of asylum-seeking arrivals in many years.