UPDATED: 3,000 of 11,000 refugees expected to be settled in Norway next year still do not yet have guaranteed housing in the Scandinavian country's municipalities, reports say.
2014 will see the need to settle 10,800 refugees, the highest number since 1994. The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi – external link) is now for the first time asking 48 smaller council districts to make this move.
Just four municipalities of this size have already agreed. They are also willing accept more than has been requested. These are Sogn og Fjordane County’s Lærdal, Eid, and Stryn, and Vågå in Sør-Trøndelag County.
Stryn will accept 55 refugees – 15 more than they were asked – Eid 40 more, Vågå four more, and Lærdal 15. This last municipality has not previously settled refugees within its boundaries.
“We feel guilty that we have not accepted refugees before, and now we want to show willingness to do so,” Centre Party (Sp) Mayor Jan Geir Solheim tells Nationen.
Each Norwegian municipality decides how many refugees they agree to settle. 100 of the 428 accept everyone they have been asked to, and a total of 263 municipalities have agreed to take up to 5,800.
Eight have already said no to IMDi’s request, however. Helge Ringli, Progress (FrP) Deputy Mayor of Meldal municipality in Sør-Trøndelag County, announced some two months ago he was uncomprehending to why “we in Norway shall be responsible for settling so many refugees”.
Meldal is also not currently shown on IMDi’s latest list (external link, in Norwegian) of municipalities that have agreed to accept displaced persons between 2014 and 2016. IMDi officials say they are still waiting for an answer so they can update their register, which happens weekly.
Mr Ringli, who subsequently refused to apologise for his statements, ostensibly said this against a backdrop of budget concerns. Other municipalities have also mentioned budget consternations too.
Current amounts allocated for displaced persons range from 145,000 to 616,800 per person. These cover fees relating to medical services, interpreting services, Norwegian tuition, schools, and kindergartens, amongst others.
These are for a five-year-period, with generally decreasing amounts each year. Allocations for pre-schools are 22,900 kroner (one-off amount), and schooling 11,400 kroner.
In order to get state funding to cover housing, municipalities must have integration methods in place, which includes a specific introduction programme.
Previous Local Government and Regional Development Minister, Centre’s Liv Signe Navarsete, proposed increasing State Housing Bank (Husbanken) coverage for rental housing from 20 to 40 per cent. This applies to refugees and other priority groups.
In April this year, the Red-Green coalition announced it wanted to increase the number of displaced persons settled in Norway to at least 7,500. This is an increase of 1,300 on 2012.
At the same time, IMDi expects 2014 will not see much improvement in numbers of refugees settled. Increased willingness from the relevant municipalities will be inadequate to cover increased demand.
Director Geir Barvik says he is “disappointed” at the number of councils who are willing to help for next year.
“IMDi certainly understands that it is difficult for many municipalities to receive refugees in the short-term, and this year, they got the opportunity for long-term planning for this municipal task. I’m surprised, therefore, that so many of the municipalities still choose to answer only regarding the 2014 year,” Mr Barvik concludes.
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