Norway’s strict entry rules that have barred entry into Norway from outside the European Economic Area, or EEA, (EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) to a small group of people outside of residents and citizens have left many separated from their loved ones for well over six months.
As a result of the rigid border restrictions, a fundraiser has been set up to pay for the legal costs involved to sue the Norwegian Ministry of Justice for what the fundraiser calls a violation of human rights.
“The right to family life is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Norwegian Constitution. Forcefully separating people from their loved ones through an entry ban violates this right,” Richard Flaaten, spokesperson for SlippOssInn (‘Let Us In’), the group behind the fundraiser, told The Local.
Currently, family members and unmarried partners can only enter the country from outside the EEA or UK if they are travelling from a purple country. Purple countries are a select few countries from the EU’s third country list. You can read more about purple countries here.
In addition to this, there are no entry restrictions for travellers using Covid-19 passes or travelling from green countries, nations with low enough levels of infection to allow quarantine free entry into Norway.
Flaaten has said that allowing arrivals from green countries and vaccine pass holders within the EU and EEA to enter Norway but not vaccinated family and partners from elsewhere is discriminatory.
“This is blatant discrimination. There are fully vaccinated family members and loved ones being denied entry into the country, while tourists are coming into the country in droves,” he said.
SlippOssInn set a fundraising target of 750,000 kroner to cover the legal costs on Spleis. The group are currently more than 70% of the way towards their target, with three days to go until their deadline.
The restrictions, Flaaten told The Local, have had a massive impact on the mental health of those separated from those they love.
“It is impacting people’s mental health. Many suffer from depression and anxiety and are being medicated for it — when what they actually need is their loved ones,” he said.
“Many have been without their loved ones for as much as a year and a half due to unpredictable and constantly changing rules throughout the pandemic. It is making them sick,” he added.
SlippOssInn conducted a survey earlier in the year where respondents were asked how the entry ban has affected them, and 87 percent of those who responded to the survey said they experienced a decline in physical health compared to before the pandemic. More than half said their mental health had significantly declined.
“The government has deferred everything to the ministry of justice, despite this being an issue of family and health matters. They see it plainly as a border issue and have chosen to close their eyes to the pain they are inflicting on families and unmarried couples. There have been more than twenty news articles or TV packages on the segment, so by now, they cannot claim not to be aware,” Flaaten said.
The reluctance to recognise the issue has sent across a harmful message to families and loved ones separated by the border rules, according to the spokesperson from SlippOssInn.
“It sends a message that in Norway, multinational families and couples are second-grade citizens and will be treated as such. That establishing a relationship with someone who is a foreigner is a risky prospect. You man not know when you can see them again,” Flaaten said.
Flaaten added the lack of clear communication from the government has made the problem even worse than it already is for many finding themselves separated from their partners and loved ones.
“The main problem has been the unwillingness to find sustainable solutions for safe reunions of families and couples. Second to this is the uncertainty: The government has pushed people in this situation from the second step to the third to the fourth to them now saying ‘maybe’ and they ‘may delay further’,” he told The Local.
“People are not able to plan their family lives on such messages,” Flaaten added.
If SlippOssInn reaches its 750,000 kroner target and successfully sues the government and legal costs are covered, or if for any other reason there is leftover money, then the funds will be used to research the psychological effects of the entry rules and promote the group’s activism.
So far, more than 1,500 people have donated to the fundraiser on Spleis. You can look at the fundraiser here.
The Ministry of Justice told The Local via email that it was unable to respond to a comment request at the current time due to the summer holidays.