Owners agree to shut down Roma camp

Owners agree to shut down Roma camp
Roma travellers start packing up to leave the Årvoll site on Thursday evening (Photo: Vegard Grøtt/Scanpix)
A temporary Roma camp in a stone quarry on the outskirts of Oslo is set to be dismantled on Friday after the two owners of the land reached an agreement to close the controversial site.

Many of the people staying at the Årvoll site packed up their belongings and left on Thursday evening after Vanessa Quintavalle, the landowner who had championed their cause, agreed to break up the camp under pressure from the chairman of the board of the property firm where she works.

Albert Kr. Hæhre, the chairman of Årvoll Eiendom, wrote a letter to Quintavalle on Thursday informing her that the company would take over the handling of the situation unless a plan for the closure of the camp was presented by 10am on Friday.

Steiner Arnesen, the Labour Party head of the Bjerke district council, said Quintavalle was likely faced on Thursday with the harsh reality of her precarious employment situation.  

“It seems the chairman, Hæhre, let her know how things should play out if she was to avoid losing her job. That’s the impression I’ve got,” said Arnesen.

Hæhre and Quintavalle met for several hours on Thursday evening to discussion the situation, her lawyer said.

The camp became a national focal point for tensions surrounding the country’s Roma population after Quintavalle invited the group to the site when they were asked to leave a makeshift camp outside a city church.

By Thursday district officials found that the number of tents had risen to 27, with around 30 cars parked in the area.

Concerned neighbours sent a letter to Hæhre in which they threatened to press charges if the camp was not shut down within three days, newspaper VG reported on Thursday.

“We don’t wish the Roma people any harm, but a small neighbourhood cannot solve a national problem alone,” said Hege Almerud, a resident who has launched a Facebook group on behalf of neighbours opposed to the camp.

Residents have also called the police to ask them to stop people driving through the area.

"We’re worn out, and all of this runs counter to people’s sense of justice. We’re the ones stuck in the mess between the camp, the people who are calling us racists, and the racists who are spoiling for a fight at the camp,” said Almerud.

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