A Good Refugee is a Refugee who Never Comes to Norway

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

tumblr world refugee toronto
tumblr world refugee toronto

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
– cancer
– several types of blood diseases
– heart problems
– epilepsi
– 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.

31 thoughts on “A Good Refugee is a Refugee who Never Comes to Norway

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Even from organizations like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch you commonly find responses like “he/she is a refugee, its not our problem”. That’s particularly funny(tragic) when they the day after criticize other countries (like China, Russia, Iran… and recently Jordan and Lebanon (who has literately opened their borders for Syrian refugees, while we only want to “pick from the best”, like refugees was some kind of cattle with good and bad qualifications)) for their treatment of refugees. Unfortunately it seems that the politics and peoples mentality towards “the others” or “the foreigners” has hardened over the years. Or maybe that is just a feeling, and it is only recently I started to wonder what is going on with people in this paradise.

  2. As a fellow immigrant who loves Norway, this really strikes a chord with me. I hope you words are taken to heart by those born Norwegian. Congratulations on a well-written article on an important subject.

  3. Don’t take me wrong but as much as I’m really sorry for everybody in a situation when they have to leave their homelands because of the war, I can actually find some understanding for such kind of decisions:
    “We would love to help you all, but sometimes we don’t have resources to provide each of you a Norwegian doctor of every speciality speaking your native language. We would also like you to become a part of our society, learn our language and find a job when you are ready for it.”.

    Media often exaggerate things to get more attention.
    “Five of out fifty people refused asylium in Norway, were found to have some kind of medical problems. But they accepted five hundred others.” is surely less eye-catching than “Refugees refused asylium because they are sick!”, isn’t it?

    You surely know how much work and resources are already used to help the asylium seekers once they are here. Do you really think it’s worth saying they should either accept everyone or nobody at all? I think every life saved and every person granted asylium is important.

    Not mentioning that the quality and availability of Norwegian medical care in Norway is.. well, very questionable, even for their own citizens. “You broke a leg? Take some Ibux, eat healthy, drink tran, come back in a month, next please!” – all that after two weeks of waiting for the appointment with the first contact doctor, because your case wasn’t urgent enough 🙂 .

    1. hehe I think you just gave me ideas for a next blogpost on Health services in Norway. I never heard any Norwegian complaining about it, it is a first.
      Of course, I understand what you mean about refugees, but still, I find Norway’s position very ambiguious. How can one accept refugees but want them to be free from all wound whether it is psychological or physical? If they are so healthy and happy where they are they would not need to become refugees.

      1. Norwegian health care is slowly collapsing, and there is a lot of news articles about it, many are collected in this site:
        About the asylum. Yes it is horrific. And still, Norway is one of the western countries who usually grant asylum based on “who needs it most”, something that has led to a larger immigrant population with severe health and medical conditions, without education and maybe harder to integrate than a lot of other countries. We have not, like the USA and Canada searched for the refugees with the best education and best possibilities to success in our society. Like most other countries in the world, our handling of this is not to be proud of, and I have no excuse for us, but I am ashamed as a human being, not as a Norwegian.
        If we look to Sweden we see that even if they are letting more people in, the way this people are treated is not to be wished upon anyone. One story that has shaken me recently is of the Syrian girl in this school:

      2. Dont take me wrong either, as I agree with very much of what you write but like Fjord Frog Fan I dont think it is as cut and dry as you suggest, I am English and have lived in Africa, Balkans and Middle east (Iraq/Afghan) for 14 Years and although I suspect a large proportion of refugees are genuine, I do believe there are many that are refugees because its convenient to be one, I have met many many people on my travels that have asked me personally how they can get too a country in Europe (and I dont blame them) because of things like: No Jobs, Government is rubbish, No opportunities since the war, I have a need of good medical care that I cant get here, etc.. Many Countries like those in the Balkans have changed significantly in terms of the rule of law and security, over the years, but I am not convinced these people that come here but really want to be here, are taking the opportunity to go back home again in a hurry… Norway can only support so many of us foreigners before we start impacting THEIR culture as well as social services, they have a right to protect their culture for future generations.

  4. You definitely NEED to write an article about the Norwegian healthcare system!
    Thanks for this article.

  5. Don’t like: “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.”

  6. I think you have misunderstood something. All things listed are “exclusions”. You can’t claim asylum on the basis that you have a bad back, or cancer etc.

    You will not be denied asylum if you have cancer and you otherwise have a legitimate right to asylum. But having cancer does not itself qualify you for asylum.

    This is just common sense.

  7. I must say that the way you write seems almost that the refugees that come to Norway are “Creme de la creme” That´s far from true.
    I am a foreigner living and working in Norway. I came to this country for other reasons. Looking from a distance I must say that when it comes to immigration affairs, norwegians are so tolerant and in my opinion too naive when it comes to asylum and refugees. There is a lot of people that shouldn’t be here as refugees , but they are. Many abuse the system , they are not interested in integrating to norwegian culture, learn norwegian or anything but getting paid to be here as “refugees”. Some even go on holiday to the country they left in terms of political refugees . How is it that they are so afraid to be killed in their country , but they still travel there as “tourist”.How are these kind of people contributing in Norwegian society, I wonder.
    Having a serious health condition or impairment does not itself qualify anyone to seek for asylum. Not in Norway , not in any country.

    1. It’s the curse of political correctness which has invaded Norway (and Scandinavia). Hopefully Norway won’t end up like Sweden where many people have finally had enough of the open door immigration policy and voted in ultra nationalists as a protest vote.

  8. Hey FrogintheFjord, I’ve read several of your posts before but never commented! I couldn’t agree more. I love Norway with all my heart and soul, but it’s become this place for conservative ideals and fear of the unknown (or anything not white, blue eyed and a perfect Norwegian accent)

    My mom came to Norway maany moons ago, and she actually lived her illegally for some time before she became a Norwegian citizen. She came from the US, she was white, blue eyed, smart, she went to school, she worked. She was finally allowed to stay, and has been here, for the most part, happily, since.

    When people start dragging up their hatred with their anti-immigration rants and anti-not white people, and anti-“refusing to learn Norwegian” crap, I pull out the second generation card. I say, okay, so in your humble opinion, I should be kicked out of the country.. Because my mother came to Norway. And she didn’t have a job or an education, she didn’t have anything except an aunt she could stay with for a few months. But she did, she got a job, she got an education, she worked for the system as a teacher for years and years because she was given a chance in the end. But she was white.

    Keep up the good work, Frog, I’m sorry Norway is turning the way it is. It breaks my heart, and I hope to see real change in the future.

    1. Your mother’s actions are understandable, but that doesn’t make them right or legal.

      If your mother still was an illegal resident and a non-citizen she should have been sent home. However, if you were a child, Norwegian domestic law and human right treaties would likely stop that (“til barnets beste”). I wouldn’t treat you differently just because your mother is white or American.

      Working or studying doesn’t negate the fact that she was illegal. This isn’t America and the cultural concept that all hard-working immigrants are welcome and equal doesn’t apply here.

  9. Are you sure you fully understood the article, Mrs Frog? This is just the qualifiers used to select the 1000 Syrian UN quota refugees we accept. This is not a revision of the refugee criteria! The 1951 Convention still applies.

    If Syrians make it to Europe they can apply for asylum in Norway regardless of their health. The article is about people we will *prepare* to receive before they even land in the country.

    They will be sent directly to communities for integration, where the municipality will have homes ready for them. While ordinary asylum seekers have to wait for their applications to be processed and eventual placement in a host municipality.

    Would you send seriously sick or handicapped people to live alone? In small communities without a big hospital or capacity? This is all about successful integration and effective delivery of service.

    1. I’ll just make a note that you never responded to this comment. You don’t seem to understand what a mistake you’ve made in your article! Or is that because you have no interest in the actual facts of the matter?

      You are clearly WRONG when attempting to condemn Norway for not following the 1951 convention criteria! The Syrians are not even applying for asylum [as quota refugees]!

  10. It’s funny, I’m Norwegian, but have lived abroad for over nine years now and one of the things that are stopping me from moving back from Austria is actually the health care system! It’s so much better here in Austria, and since I’m in that age where kids are now coming up as a real consideration, I can really see benefits of staying in a place where the system works, like here in Austria. It’s really strange for me to hear that our system is among the best in the world! It’s very, very far from it.

  11. Haha Dear Trond, Note that bloggers also need to have fun on Friday evenings. But in this case I was in bed with a flu I hope you forgive me for not moderating your comment right away 🙂
    Best wishes

  12. I am sorry, but this is not strange. We use enormous amounts on refugees and this is the reason we will have to cut welfare for all norwegians.
    Norway is now geared towards people who work and pay high amounts of taxes.
    In addition to the refugees from Syria, which Norway takes the second highest number related to inhabitants in Europe, we also take 6500 not on the grounds that they need asylum. They are accepted on humanitarian reasons which does not really vouch for anything else that they come from a poor country.
    Because we are not many, and our welfare system is extremely expensive and our income from the oil and gas are going fast downwards the welfare system, pension and taxes will be completely revised in the next 20-30 years.
    Rather a lengthy answer that should have been much longer to explain things better.
    Anyway I like your blog!

  13. I’m ashamed to read the comments above. Especially those who starts with “don’t get me wrong” – the Norwegian version of “I’m not a racist but” followed by the most outrageously racist rubbish. How people find themselves able to defend such inhumane policies is hard to understand, but their sense of justice and fairness is certainly petty and coloured with vast amounts of entitlement.

  14. You’re bang on the money! A lot of Noggies don’t like asylum seekers or foreigners of dubious colour or culture, especially muslims. Because they know that inside every muslim there is a terrorist trying to break out. They don’t want traumatised refugees because they are dangerous and the rest because they are fortune hunters (why was it that Noggies used to emigrate to USA? was it not in search of a better life?)
    You never hear about legitimate asylum seekers that get integrated and function well in Norway, because they don’t sell newspapers.
    FRP expects all immigrants to adopt Norwegian culture, religion and behaviour. Have they heard about “Sons of Norway” in the US?
    On the other hand it seems that refugees are not welcome anywhere, not just a Norwegian phenomenon. When will people learn that every human being only represents him- or herself and not an entire nationality, culture or race?

  15. Hei! I just came upon your blog and now I can’t help but read all of it, great writing! And this also explains why I am now belatedly commenting on an article from August…
    However, having read the article you linked to I felt that I needed to clear things up a bit. Not all the illnesses listed are ones excluding refugees. Only the refugees with permantent illnesses that would require them to spend their lives institutionalised in Norway are(like MS, cerebral palsy, heavy mental illnesses and autism, etc.)

    The second list in the article are of refugees that have been granted asylum, even with illnesses like cancer, blood disease, handicaps, eye-, back- and heart-issues and many more. However there is a problem that these refugees with a lot of medical needs are harder to place to local communities in Norway, because many of the small societies feel they would be too much to handle both economically and socially.
    Still, the article states that slightly more than 14% of the refugees accepted had medical problems that required a lot of attention.
    I do aggree that this number could be higher, and I sincerely feel that Norway should accept more refugees altogether. So mostly I aggree with your article, but over-exaggerating and getting important facts wrong will not help strengthen the case. Thank you for addressing the issue though, it should be much wider discussed! 🙂

  16. “We have not, like the USA and Canada searched for the refugees with the best education and best possibilities to success in our society. ”

    To my understanding that is not the criteria for refugees in Canada.

  17. Funny thing is most refugees who end up in Norway don’t want to be here at all, I know a few people who have worked in refugee camps, they really want to go to the UK and are duped into thinking it’s a short boat ride from Norway to the UK.

  18. This is a great post, especially the part when you ask Norwegian to put themselves in the refugees shoes. I think the issue is that the people in Norway and developed countries in general do not relate to refugees. They think this can never happen to them and that is why they cannot put themselves in the position of a refugee. I was a refugee when I was 16 years old and it has left a permanent mark on my personality. For many Norwegian and Westerners I am just a “krigtraumatisert flyktning” who cannot be productive in society. Yes, I am “krigtraumatisert” but I am also productive in the Norwegian Society. I learned the language, I have a full time job and pay all my taxes.

  19. This article is just wrong. The information here is not correct and/or misinterpreted.

    We do accept people with handicaps and psychological traumas etc. They are just not to be a reason for being chosen. Not the other way around.

    Also, how about the fact that we take avery large amount of refugees in comparison to nr. of citizens in Norway?

    How about the fact that we have the best integration system out there?

    How about the fact that we actually take care of our new countrymen?

    However, most orwegians want the immigration to stop, to keep norwegian culture and to avoid clashes in the future. Not because we are racist. But we actually believe we have the same right as any country to decide our future.

  20. So Norway never was under threat? Never destitute/afraid?

    Hmmm…one day there should be a post about WW II and how it was for Norwegians.

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