"For Norway this is historic," Justice Minister Anders Anundsen said as he signed the deal on Monday afternoon at Norgerhaven prison close to the Belgian border. "This is the first time we have entered into such an agreement with another country."
Anundsen signed the deal with Dutch State Secretary Fred Teeven before taking Norwegian press on a tour the jail, where, if the deal is approved by the Norwegian parliament, Norwegian prisoners will be sent.
The Netherlands is in the process of closing some 19 prison facilities, while in Norway over a thousand convicted criminals are currently waiting in a queue to serve their custodial sentences.
When the deal was first floated in September last year Vidar Brein-Karlsen, a justice ministry spokesman, dismissed concerns that relatives and friends of inmates would not be able to visit.
“Norway is a long country and sometimes we have people convicted in southern Norway being incarcerated in northern Norway,” he said. “The distance from Oslo to the Netherlands is shorter.”
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The Netherlands has already rented out some 300 places to Belgium, which faces similar overcrowding problems to Norway.
The policy is controversial in Norway, with Hadia Tajik, the deputy leader of the Labour Party opposition arguing that the money would have been better spent upgrading and expanding Norwegian prisons.