UN migration pact sets off brawls

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Police in Oslo had to deal with street brawls during the weekend, following what turned into a violent demonstration against the UN’s proposed Global Compact for Migration. Norway’s decision to support the UN pact has also set off major disagreement within the government coalition itself.

Progress Party leader and Finance Minister Siv Jensen campaigned hard against any increase in immigration in last year’s election, and now won’t go along with the government’s plan to follow the new UN platform on migration. PHOTO: Fremskrittspartiet

It’s the first time one of the current Norwegian coalition government parties, Progress, has actually opted out of a government position and expressed dissent instead. The government otherwise isn’t expected to meet additional objections in Parliament.

The UN’s migration pact, expected to be adopted at an intergovernmental conference on international migration in December, is meant to create a framework for “safe, orderly and regular migration.” It assembles principles, rights and obligations under existing rule of law, not least in terms of human rights issues. It’s not judicially binding but is meant to provide a common platform for UN member nations as they deal with international migration, and try to control it.

Progress Party leader Siv Jensen, who also serves as Norway’s finance minister, insists that Norway retain control over immigration itself. “It’s uncertain what pressure we’ll subject Norway to by supporting the UN platform,” Jensen stated in a government press release. “We believe the government should be cautious and not sign on to the UN pact.”

This group of right-wing extremists, shown here at an earlier demonstration in Kristiansand, was out demonstrating again over the weekend, against the UN migration pact. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

Newspaper Aftenposten has noted that anti-immigrant governments such as those in Hungary and Austria withdrew from negotiations over the migration pact. The US didn’t participate while the Czech Republic, Croatia and Bulgaria have rejected the platform and other countries may follow. Jensen, keen to send a signal to voters that the Progress Party remains strict on immigration, wanted Norway to do the same.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg, however, doesn’t believe there’s much if any new commitment to migrants involved and claims that signing on to the UN pact won’t lead to any new obligations for Norway. Nor will there be any amnesty requirements for illegal immigrants in Norway, for example, or any rules regarding how many migrants Norway should take in. The UN pact, aimed at better regulating migration on an international basis, hasn’t been formally approved in Norway’s Council of State but is another signal of the country’s support for international cooperation. Aftenposten reported that it will be forwarded as “instructions” to the Foreign Ministry regarding migration issues. Marianne Hagen, a state secretary in the foreign ministry, will be attending the UN conference in Morocco next month and will represent Norway’s support for the migration pact.

“I of course wanted us all to agree,” Solberg said of her three-party coalition at present, “but I respect that the Progress Party can’t back the UN platform 100 perent.” Her other coalition partner, the Liberal Party, supports the UN platform, as do the Christian Democrats, who are currently negotiating to join Solberg’s government coalition.

Violent protest in Oslo
Norway’s support for the UN migration pact, meanwhile, set off demonstrations by anti-immigration and anti-Islam groups including Sian and Nordisk motstandsbevegelse. Five people were arrested Sunday afternoon in fights that broke out after the demonstration in downtown Oslo.

Police told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that both right-wing- and left-wing extremists were on hand for the demonstration, and they ended up in a brawl afterwards at Egertorget, the public square at the top of Karl Johans Gate in Oslo. Several police patrol cars were sent to the site along with mounted police. There were no reports of serious injuries.

The violence, some of which took place right outside otherwise calm bakeries, shops and cafés in broad daylight, clearly worried police, however. They have noted an increase in violence among extremists during the past year.

“We are concerned that this will escalate further, and that we’ll have more violent incidents and demonstrations in Oslo,” said Janne Stømner, who leads the Oslo Police District’s division aimed at preventing crime and violence. She told NRK that Sunday’s violence was just the latest example.

Lars Erik Berntsen, a researcher specializing in extremism at the University of Oslo, said the violence is often a result of anti-facist groups attacking neo-nazi groups and other right-wing extremists. Police noted that both sides seek out conflict that suits their purposes.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund