Critics try to block dual citizenship

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The Center- and Labour parties are scrambling to block looming passage of a new law that would finally remove a long-standing ban on dual citizenship in Norway. Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, the protectionist, anti-EU leader of the Center Party, is among those launching a last-ditch effort to prevent Norway from allowing dual citizenship, and thus falling in line with most of the rest of the world.

Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum isn’t giving up his party’s fight against dual citizenship. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“In this case, children of diplomats and foreign students are more important for the government than women and children who are dumped abroad,” Vedum told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) over the weekend. Vedum, whose small party has always opposed dual citizenship, now claims dual citizenship will make it more difficult to bring children who’ve been kidnapped and taken to another country by a foreign parent back to Norway.

“That’s a very drastic and completely biased commentary from Vedum, who only shows that he hasn’t understood this (the dual citizenship) issue,” retorted Kristin Holm Jensen, a state secretary for the Conservative Party in the education ministry.  She noted that many women who are subjected to forced marriages or whose children are kidnapped by a foreign spouse come from countries where Norway already has made exceptions that will allow dual citizenship.

“The Center Party’s opposition (to dual citizenship) won’t help them,” Jensen said. “We have many other measures to help protect them, both in Norway and through assistance from Norway’s embassies.” Children of parents from different countries, meanwhile, have long been granted citizenship in each and allowed to retain it at least until the age of 18.

Almost alone with current ban
Norway remains the only Nordic country that still has a general ban on dual citizenship, and one of the very few in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Momentum has been growing for years to end the ban, which is widely viewed as old-fashioned and isolationist in a global society where many people have moved internationally and have allegiances to both their country of birth and their country of residence.

In Norway, the ban has meant that thousands of long-term expatriates living in Norway have been denied the right to vote in national elections, because they’ve been unable to gain Norwegian citizenship unless they give up their citizenship from birth. Thousands of Norwegians who have moved abroad, meanwhile, have also been forced to give up their Norwegian citizenship if they’ve obtained citizenship in their country of residence, for example for job reasons.

The proposed law to finally allow dual citizenship in Norway has received majority support throughout its hearing process earlier this year. The government coalition thus sent the proposal to Parliament this autumn, even though it includes the immigration-skeptical Progress Party. Progress, however, now supports dual citizenship on the grounds it will make it easier for Norway to deport criminals or terror suspects who came to Norway from other countries but now only possess Norwegian citizenship. That citizenship can’t be revoked, but it could be if they’d been allowed to retain their original citizenship.

NRK reported that the dual citizenship proposal has sparked warnings from the Norwegian Bar Association, the police and the children’s ombud that it could have a negative effect in cases of forced marriage, kidnapping and cases of Norwegian citizens being held abroad against their will. Others claim, however, that the very fact they could no longer be stripped of their Norwegian citizenship offsets such risk.

While the Center Party has always opposed dual citizenship, it’s more surprising that the Labour Party is going along with arguments against it. Labour has long been an advocate of internationalism and multilateralism, and is currently led by former Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.

Debate due in December
Center and Labour are allied, however, in an attempt to seize government power away from the current Conservatives-led coalition. That likely helped Labour’s integration spokesperson Siri Gåsemyr Staalesen join forces with Vedum, also after two women from an organization that helps imigrant women fight social control and forced marriages sought their help. They fear dual citizenship’s consequences on women whose children have been taken back to their homelands against their will.

“It will nearly be impossible to get their children back if they (the children) have become citizens of the country to which they’ve been taken,” Laial Ayoub of the organization Nok (Enough) told NRK. The government, however, stresses that the children would no longer risk losing their Norwegian citizenship, and denies Vedum’s claims that removing the dual citizenship ban will hurt vulnerable groups.

The dual citizenship issue, which has faced lengthy delays in coming up in Parliament, is currently due to be debated in Parliament sometime in December.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund