Posted on September 19, 2018

Norwegian Party Called ‘Naïve’ After Proposing to Pay Syrians to Return Home

Sputnik News, September 17, 2018

According to the anti-immigration Progress Party, Syrians in Norway who haven’t received a final residence permit should prepare to travel home, an idea fellow MPs have found “premature.”

In order to incentivize Syrians temporary living in Norway to return home, the right-wing Progress Party (FrP), currently a junior member of the center-right coalition government (traditionally referred to as “blue” in Scandinavia), has proposed a system of voluntary return, national broadcaster NRK reported.

As part of the “motivation pack” proposed by the FrP, each Syrian volunteer will receive NOK 20,000 ($2,200) in compensation, in addition to paid return.

“Syria is in dire need of reconstruction, it needs its residents back. This measure will also help curb immigration pressure on Norway,” FrP immigration spokesman Jon Helgheim explained.

According to the Immigration Directorate (UDI), 13,229 Syrians, who have arrived in Norway since 2011, have been granted residence permits. Of them, however, only about 2,400 have lived in the Scandinavian country long enough to have been granted a permanent residence permit. The FrP therefore wishes to incentivize the rest, who only have temporary permits, to travel home “if they think it’s safe enough.”

At present, the Immigration Directorate lacks any program for voluntary return to Syria due to the security situation in the country. Jon Helgheim, however, referred to a so-called refugee settlement agreement passed by the Norwegian parliament in 2015. According to him, parts of Syria are now calm, and the praxis is that refugees should return to their respective home nations as soon as circumstances allow it.

According to the 2015 settlement agreement, the immigration authorities will revoke the residence permits of refugees “without undue delay”, “should the prerequisite for temporary protection cease to exist as a result of political, social or humanitarian improvements in their home country.”

The FrP cited a low level of education and scarce labor market participation among Syrians as additional reasons to encourage them to return. According to Statistics Norway, 67 percent of Syrian asylum seekers who have entered Norway since 2012 aged 16 and over only have a basic high school education. As a consequence, only 15.9 of Syrian men and 9 percent of women aged between 15 and 66 are engaged in Norwegian labor market.

The Left Party, which voted in favor of the 2015 agreement, argued that the FrP re-settlement proposal is “naïve” and “premature.”

“I see no reason why we should encourage people to return to Syria. Instead, we should focus on those who are here, welcome them, and make sure they are well-integrated. It is our task now,” Left immigration spokeswoman Guri Melby said. Encouraging people to return will “send a completely wrong signal,” she added.