Two days ago an article was published in Aftenposten listing all the criteria on which a refugee application is refused to become a refugee in Norway. The list is the following:
– physical handicap
– several types of blood diseases
– heart problems
– hearing and speech problems
– psychiatric disorders
– back problems
– eye injuries
– war injuries and trauma
What strikes me here is that basically what Norway is saying is that they want perfectly healthy people to be refugees in their country. Not only physically but also psychologically. This list covers a wide range of health disorders. I can kind of understand the psychiatric disorders, but back problems?? War trauma? How easy is it to find a person who ran away from their home, probably saw more violence than we will ever see on TV and yet is not traumatised. It is the sole definition of wanting to be a refugee, wanting to leave your home for an unknown country in the cold: you are traumatized, you are “skadet”, and you fear for your life. Why else would you leave your home, your neighbours, your belongings and the country of your childhood? It is a myth to think all refugees always dreamed of leaving to Norway or Sweden. They do it because it is that or dying.
Imagine you are a Norwegian. Your life is good. You say hi to your neighbours everyday, take your kids to school and go to work. Your hytte is wonderful, you go there whenever you can. You love the mountains you grew up in. All is good.
Your society isn’t perfect, and you complain about this or that, but all in all you love living in your country, Norway is your home. Then suddenly a war comes along. Because of the oil in the sea, because of some corrupt politics spreading like gangrena, because of an imperialist neighbour who wants it all for himself. Of course this is unlikely to happen in Norway, but just imagine the country you love is a bit more unstable than Norway is right now. After all history has seen many odd and sudden things happen.
One day you cannot take it anymore. Your neighbours’ house has been burnt down, your kids’ school has been bombed and the fanatics from Skåne (yes the imperialist neighbour is Sweden. Impossible, I know, that Sweden ever owned Norway, but just imagine) are coming to impose their horrifying dialect all over Norway. They will kill anyone who doesn’t accept to convert to skånism.
You fear for your life. People have been massacred in front of your eyes, so you flee. First to a neighbouring town, and you continue moving. As you move, with your kids, you leave more and more belongings on the way. All you need is water and food, and to move fast, far away from terror.
Eventually you end up in a refugee camp where doctors from another continent examine you. Let’s say they are Pakistanis. You explain what you have seen. That your wife was raped in front of your eyes and taken away somewhere. That you managed to keep your kids safe by hiding them. That a mine exploded your hand but you are okay. But that is not enough. You will not make it to this place very far away where you actually are going by despair. You are too sick to be accepted in.
Because let’s face it. As a Norwegian you believe your country is the best in the world. But you are not the only one. I have met Iraqi refugees in France who talk about their country with tears in their eyes. They miss home, even decades after being forced to flee. Would you rather stay in Norway, meet you neighbours, eat your own food and teach your own language to your kids at school or live in a strange foreign place, let’s say some very hot country in the far East of this world. Where society is richer than yours, maybe, but where the food tastes strange, the weather is too hot, your kids become from a culture you don’t understand and your neighbours don’t like you. You were a doctor in Norway but over there you are a taxi driver. Of course you are thankful for fleeing fear, but if you had had a choice you’d have rather stayed in your own home country where everything is well known. Drink your favorite coffee and enjoy your hytte in the mountain. See no one choses to be a refugee.
Well it is the same for you and for the rest of us, and for them. We would rather stay in our own house, but some of us don’t have that luxury. We all want to be healthy and see our kids learn about the world at school. Same here, not all of us have that luxury. The problem is that we always imagine the refugee as someone else than us. So it is easier to be cold and methodic when listening and reading about their stories, and writing such out-of-this-world criteria. I am not saying there shouldn’t be criteria, of course. But still, this is going just far enough to be inhumane.
So Norway, if you only want refugees without trauma, with all their legs and arms, a PhD and oh and if they spoke Norwegian that would be great. Okay Danish then? – then have the courage to say you just don’t want refugees at all and stop pretending to want to save the world. Being traumatised by war is not a virus, it won’t spread. But Norway, right now, can offer a haven of peace to people who need it. And who knows, they might even contribute to society. I heard some even learn Norwegian, get a job and pay tax.
If you still want refugees, and are still proud of having ratified the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, then revise this very odd criteria list.