Several thousand refugees granted residency in Norway can now perhaps look forward to progress in getting a place to live following a binding trans-red tape agreement signing, Monday.
The tri-Ministry and public organisation joint deal commits the parties to settling some 8,000 refugees a year up to 2016.
This year will see a minimum of 7,500 displaced persons receiving housing in one of Norway’s 428 municipalities, 1,300 more than in 2012.
The agreement is a cooperative effort between the Ministry of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion, Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, and the Association for Local and Regional Authorities (KS).
“People who have been granted residence in Norway must get a municipality to live in. The sooner people are settled, the sooner they get to use their capabilities,” says Inga Marte Thorkildsen, Minister of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion in a statement.
Unaccompanied minors under 15 years of age will be prioritised. The deal also aims to ensure that children and families should not wait more than three months at asylum reception centres before settlement, and adults without children no more than six months.
“Prolonged existence in reception is not good for anyone, and especially not for children. Therefore, we are particularly keen to settle families quickly,” the Minister adds.
The new agreement is major progress in a situation where residency-approved asylum seekers faced considerable uncertainty and immigration officials were virtually powerless.
Norway’s Directorate of Immigration and Diversity told The Foreigner last year all they could do was ask the municipalities to settle the displaced person on a voluntary basis.
2,864 adult refugees given residency in Norway were still waiting at asylum seeker reception centres as of 31 July last year.
Many are still there. Latest figures show municipal settlement numbers are up. 1,297, 104 of them unaccompanied minors, received housing in municipalities in the first quarter of 2013. This is 79 persons more than the same time period the previous year.
At the same time, this still falls short of what the government intends with the new deal, despite its lower settlement numbers target.
“2,000 persons should have been settled until now to attain the goal of 8,000 in 2013. In reality, settlement in the first quarter ends up at 65 per cent of this quarter’s target figures,” IMDi officials write.
Municipal workers have said a shortage of available housing is part of the problem, explaining this is was not necessarily discrimination.
Local Government and Regional Development Minister Liv Signe Navarsete, says they are acting on this.
“The government has boosted funding for rental housing for refugees this year with NOK 44 million (about EUR 5.73 million) and the housing whitepaper contains apprises that we will provide up to 40 per cent support for rental housing for refugees, amongst others,” she declares.
Politicians also state they want to improve integration in municipalities, but displaced persons’ continued system-symptomatic stay at the reception centres has an effect on these facilities’ capacity.
July 2012 Directorate of Immigration (UDI) figures showed 2,678 (17 percent) of the asylum seekers were still waiting for a decision on their application to stay in Norway. Average case processing time was 162 days.
The Foreigner is waiting for a reply from the UDI about this year’s statistics as of time of publishing.
Meanwhile, Grete Faremo, Justice and Public Security Minister, states the new governmental-municipal deal will help integration and reception centre numbers.
“The objective is that settlement takes place as soon as possible after a person has been granted residence in Norway. It is important for those who have received this who are to be integrated in a municipality, but also to ensure the through-flow of residents at asylum seeker reception centres,” says the Minister.
Some 4,400 persons that have been granted residency in Norway were staying at these facilities as of 31 March 2013.