Norway’s foreign ministry wants to know where Norwegians are when disaster hits. It’s now urging all Norwegian citizens to register their travel with the ministry, claiming that will make it much easier for them to be contacted and receive Norwegian consular help and advisories if needed.
“In the event something serious happens in the country where you’re traveling, we can send out information via text messages to your mobile phone or email address,” Thomas Strangeby, deputy director of the foreign ministry’s section for consular issues and leader of the ministry’s operations center, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Last week’s deadly fire in Athens underscored how the ministry could inform Norwegians in the area, assess their status and offer help if needed. Ministry officials also saw a need to determine how many Norwegians may have needed help during the terrorist attack in Nice in 2016 and last year’s earthquake on the Greek island of Kos.
State statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) reports that Norwegians carried out 8.2 million foreign trips last year, but only 72,000 registered their trips and contact information on the ministry’s website, less than 1 percent
Of the 22 Norwegians NRK interviewed at Norway’s main airport, OSL Gardermoen, none had registered their trips. “I’ve heard of the ministry’s website, but I haven’t registered on it today,” said Einar Morten Lassesen, who was traveling to Berlin. He didn’t see any need to register such a short trip to a country with good infrastructure and emergency services. “It’s not so dangerous,” he told NRK, adding that it could be more important on long trips.
Norway’s foreign ministry was harshly criticized for failing to offer enough help to Norwegians caught in the deadly tsunami in Thailand in 2004. That’s when the need for better communication with Norwegians abroad became a major issue.
Some travelers may not want to register simply to protect their own privacy. The ministry stresses that travelers can delete their travel registrations at any time, however, and that all registrations are automatically deleted 30 days after the trip ends.