How did Covid-19 affect immigration in Norway in 2020?

Last year saw the lowest number of people immigrate to Norway since 2005 due to the coronavirus pandemic and related restrictions, according to a report from Statistics Norway. 

How did Covid-19 affect immigration in Norway in 2020?
Trondheim Harbour, Central Norway. Photo by Simon Williams on Unsplash

Last year, 24,400 non-Nordic citizens immigrated to Norway for the first time in 2020, Statistics Norway’s report states.

This was far fewer than the year before when 38,400 non-Nordic citizens relocated to the Scandinavian country and is the lowest number for 15 years.

The report stated that the main reason for the drop was due to the Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions introduced as a result of it. 

“The reduced immigration is mostly due to the coronavirus pandemic,” The report stated. 

Work was the most common reason for people upping sticks to Norway. Just over 11,000 people made the move for work. 

“The reduced immigration for work must mainly be attributed to restrictions due to the corona pandemic,” the report said.  

Meanwhile, 8,300 moved for family reasons. In addition to this, 2,500 refugees were granted residence, and 2,200 people were given residence for education. The rest immigrated for other reasons such as medical treatment, sport, or the performing arts. 

Reason for immigrating since 1990. Source: Statistics Norway

The numbers for 2020 were less than half of the peak of 57,000 people in 2012. 

Poles made up the largest group of migrant workers immigrating to Norway. Just over 2,600 Poles settled in Norway for work during 2020. Lithuanians were the second largest group, with 1,200 Lithuanian workers relocating to Norway. 

Romanians were the third largest group of people to move for work, followed by people from the UK, Germany, Spain, India and Latvia. 

Family immigration was at its lowest level for over 20 years. 5,900 people moved to reunite with family, and 2,400 people came to the Nordic country to establish a family. The number of people immigrating for family reasons has been decreasing since 2017. 

READ MORE: Safe but pricey: What international residents think of life in Norway 

Last year saw a significant decline in the number of refugees being granted residence. In 2015, 15,000 refugees settled in Norway compared to less than 2,500 in 2020. 

Those who do move to Norway are likely to stick it out. Between 1990 and 2020, 932,000 non-Nordic citizens immigrated to Norway. Of these, over 650,000 were still registered as living in Norway as of January 1st 2021. 

Those who move to Norway for education are the least likely to settle in the country. Refugees are the most likely to stay in Norway; 85 percent of refugees remain in Norway, and 77 percent of those who move for family end up staying. 

Out of the 320,000 migrant workers who came to Norway in the past 30 years, 65 percent have decided to stay in Norway. 

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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.