Norway preparing for refugee influx
“It will affect everyone,” says prime minister
The war in Ukraine has led to an influx of refugees we have not seen since World War II. It will affect everyone in Norway,” said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
“Up to 10 million people are fleeing the war. Most of them are in Ukraine, while 3.6 million people have left the country,” Støre (Labor Party) said at the government’s press conference about the war in Ukraine on March 25.
Norwegian municipalities have been asked to receive 35,000 refugees in 2022. This is seven times more than the number of people who are settled in Norwegian municipalities in a normal year.
In that regard, the government will set aside NOK 5 billion to provide more beds at reception centers for Ukrainian refugees. On April 1, the government submitted a proposal to the Storting.
“This will ensure that we are prepared for the growing refugee crisis. Now it is important that the Ukrainians who come to Norway register. This is necessary in order to gain access to the labor market, schooling for children, ID-numbers, and access to public services,” said Minister of Justice Emilie Enger Mehl (Center Party).
Municipalities will be compensated for expenses incurred to increase capacity. Compensation will be calculated based on the number of beds not used, and the municipalities will receive NOK 50,000 per unused space.
The government also proposes to continue formerly established subsidies to municipalities, such as integration subsidies.
Many have criticized the handling of the registration process for refugees for being too slow. Steps are now being taken to ensure a quicker process.
Mehl pointed out that the current reception apparatus does not have the capacity for the flow of refugees we now see.
“I understand that people are frustrated with the wait. But in a short time, a lot has been done. The police have established 18 registration locations in eight different police districts and are working intensively on this,” said Mehl.
In addition, the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration is now streamlining case processing by implementing automated solutions, Mehl stated.
She hopes this it will shorten the wait for many.
Regulations being adapted
The government will also consider adjustments in regulations so that municipalities can receive all the people that come.
“All ministries are now looking at the need for adjustments to their regulations, and the Ministry of Justice and Emergency Preparedness will, according to the plan, send out a joint consultation in early April,” Støre said. “We have to work fast, but also thoroughly,” he added.
Many programs and services must now also be structured differently than before the onset of the war in Ukraine.
“This will include housing, school and childcare services, and health and care services. Consequently, the government will look at necessary adjustments to regulations so that it will be practically possible for the municipalities to receive a large number of refugees in such a short time and also be able to provide them with good services,” said Minister of Labor and Social Inclusion Marte Mjøs Persen (Labor Party).
School, kindergarten, and work
The plan is for the Ukrainians to return home as soon as possible,” Støre said.
“When this will be, we do not know. What is clear is that they should feel safe and be included in our community while they are here,” he said.
“Children should go to school, to kindergarten, play with other children, learn, and develop. Students should, whenever possible, continue their studies at Norwegian educational institutions, and adults should enter the labor force and engage in our society as soon as possible,” he said.
“It will be challenging, but there is no alternative,” he said.
This article originally appeared in the April 1, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.