Norwegian activity centre refuses refugee visit

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Anti-Discrimination Ombud Hanne Bjurstrøm believes the centre leader may have broken the law by refusing service based on ethnicity or national origin. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/NTB scanpix
15:47 CEST+02:00
Owners of the Nissegården camping and activity centre in Lom municipality said no when local refugee services asked to book a visit for a group of refugees.

The group included both adults and children and would have been fully paid for by the refugee services.

One of the coordinators from Skjåk municipality seeking to arrange the trip, Magrethe Øvrelid, told the newspaper Gudbrandsdølen Dagningen that it was an unfortunate decision.

“I have no other comment besides that it is unfortunate and that Nissegården’s response speaks for itself. We have never experienced anything like this. We are usually only met with goodwill,” she told the newspaper.

In order to be sure that she had not misunderstood the centre’s reply, Øvrelid sent an email to Nissegården after speaking with them, but the response was the same.

“If the municipality was spending money on its own people, it would be a completely different matter,” the centre wrote in their email to Øvrelid.

Grethe Madsen, who runs the centre together with her husband Kjell, confirmed to the newspaper that she does not wish to accept visits from refugees to the centre.

“We have the right to take a stand on this. I think they should respect that. This is how we regard the situation, and we do live in a democracy, after all,” she said.

See also: Norway's integration minister: 'We can't be like Sweden'

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In a comment to VG, Madsen insisted that she was not a racist, but feels that the municipality is engaging in differential treatment for asylum seekers compared to children in the local area, and that that is one of the reasons she said no.

The Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, Hanne Bjurstrøm, told Gudbrandsdølen Dagningen that refusing sale of goods and services based on reasons tied to ethnicity or national origin may be against the law, and that the case as it has been presented in the media appears serious.

“As a general rule, denial of goods and services due to ethnicity or national origin is punishable under paragraph 186 of the Norwegian Penal Code. We recommend that those who encounter such situations either report it to the police or contact us,” Bjurstrøm said.

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