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Norway's strength test

Norway is known for good integration. Still, we have to fold our sleeves now.


The FrP government, headed by Immigration and Integration Minister Sylvi Listhaug, has marked itself with a rough and unsympathetic rhetoric in the face of increased immigration to Norway. Statements by Listhaug that "the charity rides Norwegian society like a mare", "asylum seekers should not be carried into Norway on a gold chair" and "they must provide, not just enjoy" are counterproductive in the critical times we now face. It creates political divide and unrest in the people.
It helps little that Erna Solberg held an excellent New Year's speech in a sincere and inclusive tone, when it is Listhaug's play that gets the most media attention and thus also influences public opinion. This peaked when Oslo FrP recently adopted proposals for closed reception and the abolition of all forms of permanent residence for asylum seekers. This is a daunting and destructive development in Norwegian immigration policy, which will have fatal consequences for our integration policy if it has any impact.

Norway can integrate. Norway is in fact a world leader in integration. In the international survey Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) from 2015, Norway comes in fourth place after Canada, Finland and New Zealand in terms of integration policy. Besides having responsible politicians who have understood the value of investing in integration, we also have much to thank for our strong economy and our developed welfare system.
Behind the unflinching rhetoric, Listhaug has an important point: She is right in the need for austerity. A restrictive immigration policy is necessary for many reasons. One of the main reasons is that we cannot stay longer than we can integrate properly. Therefore, it is important that we continue with and strengthen the integration measures for those who have already been granted residence and who will receive it in the coming years. Last year, 31 145 people applied for asylum in Norway, the vast majority during the last months of the year. These are historically many, and also mean that more people are staying than ever before. The UDI is working on estimates that between 10 and 000 asylum seekers will come in 60.

Behind the unflinching rhetoric, Listhaug has an important point: She is right in the need for austerity.

Although this was an exceptionally sharp increase in refugee immigration, we have had the greatest immigration growth in modern times in the last decade. This is mainly due to labor immigration, but also family immigration has contributed to a steady increase. Refugees who are allowed to stay have a low return rate, and many of the refugee groups thus grow over time. However, this historical growth over the last ten years has not led to any major negative changes in Norwegian society, as many fear. Crime in Norway is lower than ever, and the level of education and prosperity has only increased.
For this positive development to continue, it is imperative that politicians continue to focus on integration. Because it pays off. Working life is our most important integration arena. Here you learn language and culture, make friends and networks, and opportunities for self-development and mastery. In 2015, Norwegian municipalities settled more than 11 refugees; this year there will be even more. Cooperation between the state and the municipality must be optimized, so that the resources are used in a way that allows the refugee to find work and become independent as soon as possible.

Networking provides jobs. In a recent report, the NIBR City and Regional Research Institute looked at regional barriers to immigrant employment, and how we can control employment. The analysis shows that the degree of employment varies between different groups and regions. Among labor immigrants, labor participation is naturally high, while among refugees the prospect of a job is far poorer.
Several municipalities have noticed that networks are labor-promoting, and are actively working to make participation in voluntary organizations and sports teams a part of the integration process. One example is the municipality of Sørreisa in Troms, where participation in local organizations has become a mandatory part of the introduction program for refugees.
Through local involvement, the immigrant will receive both informal and formal references to job search. When an employer considers who he or she should hire, trust is essential. Hiring a "wrong" person is both expensive and risky, and it is a great advantage if you have several people who can benefit the applicant and his or her competence.

Fold up your sleeves. Due to, among other things, halved oil prices, we are experiencing increased unemployment in certain industries and in parts of the country. But other industries are growing, like the seafood industry. Here, the demand for labor is high, as is the public health system. Then we have to adapt the labor measures of immigrants to this demand, so that there are real job opportunities out of the state's integration investment.
In addition, if we become more aware of social networking and inclusion in the local community, we are better equipped to meet the integration challenges of the near future – which will be a huge test of strength for Norwegian society. Here it is about folding up your sleeves – and dropping the rhetorical rhetoric.

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