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'Norway gov could fall over refugee kids'

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'Norway gov could fall over refugee kids'
A march on Oslo's Karl Johans Gate in 2013 in support of asylum children. Photo: Anette Karlsen/NTB scanpix
14:37 CET+01:00
A senior figure in Norway's anti-immigrant Progress Party has warned that a no-confidence motion against Justice Minister Anders Anundsen over refugee children, if carried out, would “automatically” cause the ruling right-wing coalition to collapse.
Christian Tybring-Gjedde, one of the most outspoken anti-immigration figures in Norwegian politics, issued his threat on Monday in an article published in the left-wing Klasskampen newspaper. 
 
“If they submit a no-confidence motion against the Justice Minister it will automatically cause the whole government to collapse,” he warned. “If the Liberals keep harassing him in this way, there will not be a government sitting for much longer.” 
 
Anundsen has been fighting for his political survival after an investigation by Bergens Tidende newspaper revealed in December that his ministry had never instructed Norway’s immigration police to soften the country’s policy towards children seeking asylum, making it look as if the ruling two-party coalition had reneged on the post-election deal it struck with the minority Christian Democrat and Liberal Parties. 
 
The failure has enraged party activists for whom the government’s agreement to bring in a more lenient policy towards refugee children was one of the few achievements won in the difficult coalition discussions after the country's 2013 election.  
 
Over the weekend, grassroots meetings of both parties called on their parties leaders to submit a no-confidence motion in Anundsen. 
 
“We are sending a very strong message to the leader of the Liberal Party in parliament that we have very little faith in Amundsen,” Anja Berggård Endresen, from the Liberal Party in Rogaland told The Local. “This is something that lots of people in the Liberal Party feel very strongly about as these children have been an issue for us for a long time, but I don’t know if this will persuade our politicians to make him go.” 
 
In a parliamentary hearing on Friday, Anundsen put the blame for the failure to enact the policy onto the Police Directorate and Police Immigration Service, claiming that he had given instructions that the policy should be put into place. 
 
“I believe we have done what we could to ensure a policy change,” he told parliament. “But I admit it is difficult to ascertain that policy change has actually happened when looking at the numbers. I was surprised when I saw the number of children sent out.” 
 
Endresen told The Local that Liberal Party activists suspected that the failure to implement the policy was deliberate as it conflicted with Progress Party’s programme of reducing immigration. 
 
“We think it’s not proper behaviour to push the blame further down in his organisation,” she said. “It’s his responsibility and he should have seen this through.”  
 
The leadership of the Liberal and Christian Democrat parties have yet to give a clear signal on how they will respond following Anundsen’s hearing on Friday. 
 
“I understand and respect the county teams’ concernS, but we must consider the answers that were given to the Parliamentary Control Committee before we decide the way forward,” Abid Raja, the Liberal Party’s representative for Akerhus, told NTB on Monday. 
 
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