Why has Oslo taken in a low number of Ukrainian refugees?

Norwegian capital Oslo has the capacity to take in thousands of refugees from Ukraine but has so far only received 31 arrivals from state authorities, according to a report.

Ukrainian refugees in romania
Ukrainian refugees near the border with Romania earlier this month. Authorities in Norwegian capital Oslo want the Nordic country's central agencies to speed up the resettlement process. Photo: Daniel MIHAILESCU / AFP

Although the Oslo city government quickly arranged 2,000 available places for Ukrainian refugees to be accommodated in the city shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, only a small number have so far been placed in the city by central authorities, local media Vårt Oslo reports.

The low number is not a result of a lack of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Norway in general, with 14,536 persons from Ukraine having so far applied for asylum in the country according to recent data from the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration (UDI).

A elected official from the Oslo city government said in comments reported by Vårt Oslo that the low number was related to a backlog at the Directorate of Integration and Diversity (Integrerings- og mangfoldsdirektoratet, IMDi).

“We have received 31 Ukrainian refugees who must be housed,” the city council’s deputy deputy leader and head of finance Einar Wilhelmsen told Vårt Oslo.

“We have been quite frustrated about how slowly it’s going. The reason it’s going slowly is that refugees must be registered while they are still at asylum centres,” he said.

Part of the registration process conducted by IMDi includes asking refugees three questions, according to Wilhelmsen’s comments to the media.

“I have now found out what the three questions are: Do you have significant health problems, do you have relations or a network in Norway that must be taken into consideration; and do you have pets,” he said.

IMDi last week acknowledged the slow progress of registrations and distribution to municipalities for resettlement of refugees from Ukraine. The agency also stressed that a number of bottlenecks had now been resolved.

“We expect 250-400 refugees to be registered each day. We then expect a clear increase in resettlements,” the IMDi director, Libe Rieber-Mohn, said last week according to media Kommunal Rapport.

The agency said capacity has been increased and arrival questionnaires simplified.

But Wilhelmsen called for further streamlining of the process.

“Registration of health issues is not hugely relevant for people who are resettled in Oslo. We have good health services and a compact municipality, so it’s not so important,” he said to Vårt Oslo.

“Having a network elsewhere can be important, but shouldn’t be the reason for delaying resettlement of Ukrainian refugees,” he said.

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Oslo shooting suspect remanded in custody for four weeks

The suspect behind a weekend shooting in Oslo that left two dead and 21 wounded was remanded in custody for four weeks on Monday.

Oslo shooting suspect remanded in custody for four weeks

Zaniar Matapour will have no contact with the outside world until July 25, Oslo District Court ruled. The 43-year-old is accused of killing two men and wounding 21 other people when he opened fire near a gay bar in central Oslo in the early hours of Saturday morning, amid celebrations linked to the city’s Pride festival.

Norway’s domestic intelligence service has described the attack as “an act of Islamist terrorism” and said Matapour had “difficulties with his mental health.” Norwegian police said they were still investigating Matapour’s motive.

He has been charged with “terrorist acts”, murder and attempted murder, but has so far refused to be interrogated by police. According to his lawyer, he fears investigators will manipulate video recordings of his questioning.

Matapour, a Norwegian of Iranian origin, will undergo a preliminary psychiatric evaluation to help determine the state of his mental health and whether he can be held legally responsible for his actions.

He had been known to Norway’s PST intelligence service since 2015, with concerns about his radicalisation and membership of “an extremist Islamist network”.

READ ALSO: Norway pays tribute to victims of Oslo shooting

Police said they were examining several possible theories, including an attack motivated by ideology, unstable mental health, a hate crime against the LGBTQ community, or a combination of factors.

The PST said it did not pick up on any “violent intent” when its services interviewed him last month.

Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said there would be a review into the police and PST’s handling of the case.

Nordic ministers visited the site of the attack on Monday, saying in a joint statement that they “stand together with the LGBTI community and against all forms of violence”.

Oslo’s Pride parade, which had been scheduled to take place for the first time in three years due to the Covid pandemic, has been postponed indefinitely.