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- Free immigration perfectly ok

- We should open the Norwegian borders for free immigration, but at the same time we must offer immigrants the same conditions as we have in Norway today, says SU leader Audun Herning.


Editor of the magazine Minerva, Nikolai E. Astrup, believes that Norwegian politicians are good at talking about solidarity and aid, but it does not help with words, it requires action. He writes this in the article on pages 2-3 in this week's edition of Ny Tid. We have asked the leader of Socialist Youth, Audun Herning, if he can support the views of Astrup.

- Do you agree with Nicolai E. Astrup that we should open the borders for free immigration?

- Yes, I support such an initiative. I see no reason why Norway should not have open borders.

- But do you agree with Astrup's justification?

- No. I fundamentally disagree with him in his perception of reality. He may not have familiarized himself with the debate that has been going on in this country. It is also clear that he has not properly understood what lies in both free immigration and what Norway and Norwegian organizations actually do to help people in other parts of the world.

- What do you put in it?

- We should open the borders to everyone who wants to come to Norway, but they must be guaranteed the same rights as Norwegians have. We can not offer immigrants worse pay and working conditions than what has been negotiated between the social partners. We can not let immigrants get paid less for the job they do than Norwegians would get for the same job. As Nikolai E. Astrup puts it, it is only a matter of opening the borders and not making any demands on how we should treat those who come.

It should not be the case that free immigration should mean that it is free from social dumping in this country.

- How far is the Norwegian left willing to reach for the world's poor?

- Very far. The Norwegian left has never been a brake on securing better conditions for poor countries. On the contrary, the Norwegian left, together with the trade union movements, has been a driving force for a fairer world through a number of collaborative projects with many countries in the third world. You can look at all the projects that LO and SV are involved in.

- But is Astrup not right that there are customs walls that prevent poor countries from exporting to Norway?

- The solution outlined by Nikolai E. Astrup focuses exclusively on economics. We cannot talk about free world trade without tariff barriers as long as we have the unequal distribution between the world's poor and the world's rich countries. I can take an example like Malawi, which we recently visited. We asked what they think about Norway not having customs duties on goods from there. The people in the ministry had not heard that this possibility exists. Because as they said, they did not know anything that they could export on such conditions. But, they emphasized, we are an agricultural nation, and the products we can produce are impossible to send to Norway, because you make demands on the production that make it impossible for us to deliver.

- You are not afraid that it will flow with immigrants if we open the borders?

- Not at all. Firstly, immigrants are positive in the first place, and it is not certain that there will be that many. And if we make sure to treat those who come in a proper way, then they enter our labor market on an equal footing with Norwegian workers – on the same terms. Today there are several obstacles in the way. The Norwegian government is doing everything to make immigrants feel unwanted through their campaigns. It is also far and expensive to travel to Norway.

- What is it that makes you think that there may not be so many?

- It is a long way to travel, and for workers in many countries it is a utopian dream to hope for a profit that can be used to travel to Norway for. You have to keep in mind that in many countries, a daily income for ordinary workers is only around one dollar. Then they have to work for at least six months to get a ticket with the Danish boat from Frederikshavn.

- Astrup points out that for the Norwegian left and the trade union movement, Norwegian jobs are more valuable than jobs in Africa, Asia and South America?

- He turns the issue upside down. Again, he focuses only on economics, and not on reality. For a poor worker in Guatemala, it is not the salary of a Norwegian worker that is the problem. In Guatemala, the poor earn significantly less than we do, but to do something about it, they do not need free trade. They need the opportunity to wage an independent wage struggle and create a system that creates security and gives them the opportunity to develop. Moreover, we cannot simply compare Norway and Guatemala, or any other country in the third world without looking at the internal class divisions. The internal differences in Guatemala are extreme, with some being insanely rich, while many are struggling from day to day. Guatemala is the country in the world with the most privately owned helicopters per capita. And it is not the poor who own these.

- What should we focus on, if the opportunity for increased income is not to be the most important?

- Giving the poorest a better everyday life takes time. Open borders create greater poverty if a number of conditions are not in place first. Here I am talking about basic things like education, infrastructure and health. When these three areas function in a country, and it has a healthy population that is also qualified and conscious, then we can talk about open borders.

Today, the situation is that open borders lead to increased social dumping. In Norway, we offer Eastern European workers jobs for a fraction of what any Norwegian would accept, while closing the borders of the workforce from the rest of the world. Those who come to Norway are also those who have an education, and it is not good that we let educated people from the third world come to us, while the poorest population must remain in their home country. We need to start with ourselves, and look at what it is we offer those who come to us. We must see what we can do for the poor who, with today's liberal thinking in world trade – something the current Norwegian government supports – do not have a living chance of participating on equal terms. It is the large multinational companies that control this, and they have no interest in securing the wage and labor rights of the workers. They live well by letting the poorest of the poor compete to get paid as little as possible to do a job.

- It is the bourgeoisie who show solidarity in Norway. Do you agree with that statement?

- When Astrup says that solidarity with immigrants and the world's poorest is strongest on the bourgeois side in Norwegian politics, he misses badly. Showing solidarity with the powerful multinational companies instead of with the poor is not solidarity. The poor countries should be allowed to give their own companies the opportunity to build up within the country's borders.

- Are you just happy with SV's policy in this area?

- I think that SV and the Norwegian trade union movement do a good job both when it comes to securing wage and working conditions for everyone in Norway – including immigrants. They also do a good job in many third world countries. Unfortunately, there is a majority in the Storting that actively does what they can to stop all immigration to Norway.

But I would like to see that the SV was more offensive in the immigration issue and to open the borders for free immigration.

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