Progress Party to asylum seekers: Act Norwegian

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Photo: Erlend Aas/Scanpix (File)
12:12 CEST+02:00
Norway’s right-wing populist Progress Party wants asylum seekers to show they’re serious about fitting in before they can be granted permanent residency.

Seemingly irked by immigrants who fail to integrate, the party is calling on would-be residents to dress like Norwegians, speak Norwegian, get jobs, respect Norwegian culture and values, adhere to the proper use of welfare benefits, and generally behave impeccably, newspaper Dagbladet reports.

“It’s a fact that many asylum seekers don’t want to be part of Norwegian society,” said immigration policy spokesman Morten Ørsal Johansen.

“Those who don’t wish to work and don’t learn Norwegian shouldn’t be given permanent residency.”

The new policies drawn up by Johansen, along with colleagues Gjermund Hagesæter and Åge Starheim, enjoy the full support of the party leadership, the newspaper said.

According to Johansen, it’s important to place demands on immigrants wishing to remain in the country.

“To take an example: a woman who declines to take a job because she can’t wear a burqa should have to face the consequences. People who don’t want to work shouldn’t get permanent residence permits,” he said.

Anyone applying to stay in Norway on a permanent basis – the last step before full citizenship – should also have to take a test to prove their knowledge of Norwegian language and society, Johansen believes.

The proposals were quickly slammed by Inga Marte Thorkildsen (Socialist Left), Minister of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion, who accused the Progress Party of exaggerating problems associated with integration.

“I’ve hardly even heard of a woman being denied a job because she demands to wear a burqa to work,” said Thorkildsen.

“One major equality problem that does exist however is that of women not joining the labour market because they have long been isolated in the home with Progress Party-supported cash incentives. And a recent study shows that job seekers with a foreign name have a 25-percent lower chance of getting work with Norwegian employers,” the minister added.

The Labour Party’s Lise Christoffersen meanwhile categorized the proposals as the latest in a series of frivolous initiatives from the Progress Party.

The Conservative and Liberal parties, the Progress Party's opposition partners, were similarly unimpressed.

"Either you're granted asylum or you're not granted asylum. And if you have the right to protection in Norway, government authorities should not use the asylum institution as a bargaining chip for a desired lifestyle," Conservative Party immigration policy spokesman Trond Helleland told news agency NTB.

Liberal Party deputy chief Terje Breivik was equally blunt.

"We totally disagree with these demands. In this regard, the Liberals represent a clear alternative to both the government and the Progress Party," he said.

The Progress Party scored 22.9 percent of the vote in the 2009 general election, earning it 41 seats in parliament.

Progress Party residency proposals in brief:

- Anyone applying for permanent residency must have lived in Norway for the previous six years, as opposed to the current three-year limit.

- A jail-term of at least one year should lead to reduced residency rights. Minor transgressions should lead to a lengthening of the minimum application deadline.

- All money owed to the state or municipalities must be repaid.

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- Applicants must have worked full time for at least two-and-a-half of the previous three years and may not have received any social welfare benefits in that period.

- Applicants should be required to sign a declaration of integration and citizenship.

- Applicants must have passed a Norwegian 2 language test, or equivalent.

- Applicants who have participated in voluntary work or other activities that display an active interest in Norwegian life should have this taken into account when applying for residency. 

- A reward system should be put in place to set a high standard for the integration of foreign citizens.

- Family reunification should require compliance with the terms and conditions required for the granting of permanent residence permits.

- People coming to Norway through family reunification programmes should not have the right to bring along further family members.

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