While Angela Merkel tries to form a government, reeling from the political fallout of her immigration policy, Norway’s Conservative-led coalition entered its second term – and is pursuing a very different approach to migration than its neighbour, Sweden.

Screen Shot sylvi listhaug

Last week I met Sylvi Listhaug, who holds a recently-created position: Minister for Immigration & Integration. She’s with the Progress Party, the junior partner in coalition, and is usually called things like ‘outspoken’ and ‘controversial’ and I was keen when we met to find out what kind of radical views she holds. At the end of the interview, I was left wondering if her analysis is actually further-sighted and more morally defensible than the Merkel approach.

Norway’s approach has been different from the offset. When Sweden accepted 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, the Norwegians took in 30,000 – and this year, so far, it’s 2,000. In her interview, she outlined the following elements of the Norwegian model.

1) Norway starts by acknowledging that the rich world has a moral duty to help refugees, but it goes further. The tougher moral question, it says, is: how do you help them? And if you can help far more refugees in camps abroad for the cost of helping one at home, what do you do? Britain is also thinking this way, although it tends to be less open about discussing it. Ms Listhaug had just met Brandon Lewis, her British counterpart, when I spoke to her. She explained that the UK could help 100,000 children abroad for the cost of helping 3,000 here. In which case, isn’t the moral duty of a government to help the many and not the few?

2). Norway spends huge sums (1% of its GDP) on foreign aid. Last year it was 36.6 billion kroner (about £3 billion) or 1.1 per cent of our GDP. This is about twice the EU average, and far above the UK’s 0.7 per cent (or Germany’s 0.5pc). In Syria, Norway has pledged a total of 10 billion kroner (£920m) over four years. Of course, Norway has a billion-dollar sovereign wealth fund at its disposal.

3) Norway uses its foreign aid budget to help settle refugees in Norway. Helping refugees at home is a humanitarian mission, albeit one carried at home, so it is categorised as foreign aid. The UK cannot do this as David Cameron passed a law obliging his (and future) governments only to count money spent in certain nations (as opposed to on certain people). Norway has used its flexibility to have a two-track approach to handling refugees.

4) Norway turns away all immigrants who are not in need of protection. “If you are an economic migrant, you are declined in Norway. We give protection for the ones that need that, that are in danger in their own country but we also spend a lot of money to return people that are declined in Norway, also by force’. Police are sent to look for illegal immigrants in restaurants and other places ‘where black [market] labour is common… if we find them we will send them out. That has also decreased the crime in Norway, that’s very good'” Read More