Norway’s discriminatory legislation against Roma

 Håkon Sønderland

Håkon Sønderland

This month Norway’s parliament, which has one of the highest GDP in the world at $100,000, has banned begging in some local municipalities alongside a national ban on begging for the summer. The official reason given by the new Conservative-Progress coalition government is to combat human trafficking and other organised crime.

However, from what I can gather, this seems to be a direct attack on Roma immigrants as they make up a high percentage of the beggars in Norway. This legislation has been coupled with the announcement that the 2015 budget will see cuts in funds for the shelters for the homeless. These church shelters are a lifeline for the homeless immigrant beggars as they are not entitled to benefits from the Norwegian government.

This law has been welcomed by two thirds of Norwegians, which is hardly surprising as they have only just voted in the Conservative-Progress coalition that has introduced this legislation. The Leader of the Progress Party, Siv Jenson, explicitly commented prior to the legislation that this beggar ban was the best way to reduce Roma on the streets, thus explicitly linking the ban to the Roma community. To add to this, Norway has a bad historical record in dealing with Roma inhabitants, including sterilisation.

This Roma legislation is unacceptable in many ways, as it is also taking away from the minority alternatives routes to subsistence. On a personal note, I would be much happier if the legislation included provisions for education, integration or jobs seekers allowance type systems so that it wouldn’t simply put the Roma at risk of falling into criminal activity, starvation or returning to Romania.

Should Britain follow suit? Britain’s immigration approach and problems are slightly different. Generally the immigrants we have from Eastern Europe come on work visas thus have a different approach to their migration and new life in the UK.

However, if the outcome of the May General Election is a Conservative-UKIP coalition then we may face similar types of legislation on immigration, but that remains to be seen.

Also, at the moment the key immigration issue is whether or not Theresa May will allow Julien Blanc a visa, which I am very pleased to say she has not! Moreover, British citizens have an alternate approach to homelessness than the Norwegians.

We have multiple charities, including Crisis and The Salvation Army, which engage in shelter-related works and receive a lot of money from both the government and public donation. We are fundamentally more socially liberal than the Scandinavians, as is shown by the anti-UKIP feeling especially in cities, which I think alters our perception of homelessness and begging. This is proved by the fact that even illegal immigrants can use the NHS in an emergency without an upfront cost.

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