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ROMA

Norway’s open border brings few Romanians

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.

Norway's open border brings few Romanians
Cristoiv Kozalia moved to the camp in Sognsvann in late May. Photo: Stian Lysberg Solum/Scanpix
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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ROMA

Roma beggars not run by crime groups: report

There is no evidence that Romanian beggars in northern Europe are managed by organised crime groups, according to a new report from Norwegian social research foundation Fafo.

Roma beggars not run by crime groups: report
Gina Ionescu, a Roma woman, begging in Oslo in 2013. Photo: Marte Christensen/NTB Scanpix
Fafo interviewed 1,269 homeless Romanians in Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen last summer without finding any signs of criminal third parties. 
 
“We’re very certain that the beggars are not in any way part of organised crime,” Ann Britt Druve, one of the researchers behind the study. “They know each other and they travel in family networks and community networks. It’s not being organised by any third party.” 
 
As well as interviewing homeless Romanians on the streets with a set questionnaire, Fafo also arranged in-depth qualitative interviews, and visited Romania to carry out field surveys. 
 
“We don’t think that all of them would have been able to deceive us to such an extent,” Druve said. 
 
The Romanians, most of whom were ethnic Roma, normally travelled to Scandinavia in minibuses, often borrowing the money to finance their journey, either from family or from the minibus drivers. 
 
They typically earned around 200 Norwegian kroner each day, saving about half of that to send home to Romania. 
 
“Their families in Romania are extremely poor so this can make a lot of difference,” she said. 
 
It was not, however, enough money to attract the interest of organised crime groups, she believed. 
 
“This is not enough for a criminal network. It’s not worth the effort.” 
 
Drive started the interviews in Oslo early last summmer, before moving on to Stockholm, and finishing in Copenhagen in the autumn.