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Norway's open border brings few Romanians

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Norway's open border brings few Romanians
Cristoiv Kozalia moved to the camp in Sognsvann in late May. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/Scanpix
17:46 CET+01:00
Norway has seen few extra Romanians and Bulgarians since it lifted border restrictions at the end of 2012, belying fears in the UK of a floods of migrants.
The richest country in Europe with a generous welfare state,  Norway could be expected to be a top draw for low-salaried Eastern Europeans. 
 
But between January and December 2013, it saw just 4,904 Romanians and Bulgarians registering for work using their European Economic Area (EEA) citizenship, a rise of just 24 percent on the year before, when they needed to apply for special work permits. 
 
In the UK, many of warned that lifting border restrictions on the two countries would lead to excessive immigration, with the pressure group Migration Watch warning that as many as 50,000 workers a year will flood into the country.
 
The panic at the end of last year, pushed the UK's Prime Minister to rush through legislation limiting the access of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants to benefits. 
 
But in the event, few new workers appear to have arrived. 
 
What has most divided Norwegians has been the arrival of Roma people -- numbering in hundreds rather than thousands -- who have started begging in city centres and camping out in sites in the surrounding countryside. 
 
"If these people can not survive on their own and most of the time commit crimes, we should just get a bus and send them home,"  Siv Jensen, the leader of the right-wing Progress Party said in 2012 at the height of the controversy.
 
Others argued that Norway should provide a refuge for some of the most discriminated against people in Europe. 
 
Since Jensen joined Norway's new government as Finance Minister, however, her rhetoric has softened and a campaign pledge to bring in a national begging ban appears to have been dropped. 
 

YEAR

Romania

Bulgaria

2007

1893

928

2008

2324

830

2009

1697

647

2010

1593

793

2011

1777

893

2012

2639

1323

2013, incl. Nov.

3494

1410

Source: Norwegian Directorate of Immigration

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