Back when I lived in Norway I didn’t really have any problems with immigration. The town I lived in, despite only having a population of about 2000 people, had a lot of immigrants – with many of them being from Chile. Some of my best friends growing up had parents from another country, and my mother worked as a Norwegian language teacher for foreigners. Once a year, there would be a market where they sampled food from all over the world. This enabled me to experience a lot of different cultures in a relatively small community. When I moved away to one of the bigger cities in Norway in order to start studying at the university I realized how different the situation was there. Not all the immigrants got the proper follow-up while they were learning the language, and many immigrants had problems getting jobs because of their cultural backgrounds or their lack of knowledge of the language. I also noticed that people I talked to sometimes reacted negatively to the topic of immigration. Norway is a wealthy country, and one of the reasons people against immigration usually give for not wanting more people to enter the country is “having to pay tax which is in turn given as support through the welfare system and sent back to the home country of the immigrants”, among other things. On the other hand, since immigrants sometimes have such a hard time finding jobs, what other choice do they have than to rely on the support from the state?
On the 22nd of July 2011, a bomb went off in the capital of Norway, in one of the parliament buildings. On the same day, a youth camp for the Norwegian Labor Party was attacked when a man opened fire on the attendees. Before the attack on Norway, the right-wing parties in favor for closing the borders and letting less people into the country had experienced a boost in voters, but after the attack the left-wing parties gained more support. An election that had been scheduled beforehand was to take place not long after the attack, and was carried out despite the disturbances the country had faced. The election showed less support for the parties that fought the most for less immigration. The attacker claimed he had done it in defense of the “Islamic invasion” that was about to overtake the country. This fierce stance against a different culture and immigration in turn led to harsh criticism against the right-wing parties’ previous campaigns and advertisements for shutting down the borders and not allowing more immigrants into the country.
Another case that gained a lot of attention in Norway is the writer Maria Amelie, who after writing a book about being an illegal immigrant in Norway despite having lived there for almost 10 years, was deported from the country. After the publishing of the book she was arrested and deported to Russia. This case sparked a discussion on treatment of immigrants and how their stories often went unheard, but also made Norwegians question the current laws for immigration and asylum. Some claimed the Maria Amelie-case overshadowed some of the other immigrants in more dire need of support, but in the end it also put a focus on immigration in the media. The case also led to political debates, and changes made to the rules for applying for permits for staying in the country. Following this, Maria Amelie was allowed back into Norway on a work permit in April, 2011.
The country has faced hardships recently, but I believe the recent events have made an impact on people’s views, and I think it’ll be interesting to see how Norway’s stance on immigration develops from now on.
by Sindre Berg