NGO criticizes Syria response

Norway Peace Council organizes demonstration in Oslo as increasing numbers of refugees seek asylum

Michael Sandelson & Sarah Bostock
The Foreigner

“Norway is known for its humanitarian record. It is inappropriate and baffling that Norway is only accepting 8,000 Syrian quota refugees over the course of three years. In comparison, Sweden grants permanent residency to all Syrian refugees,” says Norway Peace Council’s Hedda Bryn Langemyr.

Earlier this year, a cross-party deal (excluding the Socialist Left (SV) and Progress (FrP)) was hammered out to accept this number of displaced persons over three years.

Langemyr makes her statement as European leaders discuss how to handle the huge influx of refugees, and with Norway offering the UN to host a donor conference.

The UN has requested USD 7.4 billion in aid to Syria and neighboring countries Turkey and Lebanon.

According to Langemyr, the past weeks have seen 85,000 people in Norway mobilize aid and support for refugees originating from Syria and other conflict-ridden areas.

Ordinary citizens have donated items including food and clothing as Norway’s swamped asylum seeker reception centers struggle to cope with the influx.

Mogul Petter Stordalen has offered some 5,000 nights to Syrian and African displaced people at his Nordic Choice chain of hotels via the Directorate of Immigration (UDI) if they cannot find a place at these facilities.

UDI press advisor John Olav Kroken tells The Foreigner that “we have told his company that we appreciate his offer, but we have to focus on finding more permanent accommodation for refugees right now.”

“However, we will avail ourselves of this offer should we so need.”

Saturday’s demonstration for the Syrian refugees, which is part of the European Day for Refugees, took place at Eidsvolls plass near the Parliament.

The Norwegian Peace Council expected some 7,000 people to attend the event. Attendees included the Socialist Left’s (SV) Audun Lysbakken, the Christian Democrats’ (KrF) Knut Arild Hareide, the Liberals’ (V) Trine Skei Grande, Miljøpartiet De Grønne’s (MDG) Rasmus Hansson, and the Red Party’s (Rødt) Bjørnar Moxnes.

“We’re going to bring our message to the five party leaders and challenge them from stage as to which political action they can take … to increase the number of UN quota refugees,” Langemyr says.

She also criticizes Norway’s political parties for pushing different priorities. “While all agree that something has to be done, none of them are saying that we need to do four to five things in tandem. For example, Labor (Ap) is choosing to focus on the number of asylum seekers coming to Norway rather than UN quota refugees and other questions.”

“Moreover, the political, judicia, and non-governmental branches have to strive for better efficiency regarding case-processing as well as housing when it comes to settling refugees,” concludes Langemyr.

This article was originally published on The Foreigner. To subscribe to The Foreigner, visit theforeigner.no.

It also appeared in the Sept. 18, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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