Efficient integration?

A new Government report was released in May, "From reception centre to the working community- an efficient integration policy". The message is one of getting refugees into the labour market as quickly as possible. As such, this seems to be the right focus. It has been well documented that new comers to a country, and refugees in particular, have much better chances at integration and adjusting if they have a secure occupation.

The report gives way to an everyday life focus, leaning heavily on Civil society and voluntary efforts. Immigration and Integration Minister Sylvi Listhaug thereby states that volunteering, sport, cultural and religious communities can play important roles in the important integration efforts. The Government wishes to cooperate with municipalities and voluntary sectors to create good examples of cooperation between municipalities and the voluntary sector. The integration and diversity directorate will play a greater role as a facilitator for local authorities and NGOs in this process.

The report points out that there are many leisure activities in the municipalities. However, many children of immigrant origin do not use these services. Moreover, they face barriers to participation, the report states. The report encourages finding solutions in which the municipalities in collaboration with NGOs work together to identify the good solutions in a local context. The Norwegian Organization for asylum seekers (NOAS) are among those who find flaws in the report. NOAS, although positive to the main outlines, state that passivity among asylum seekers is silently encouraged by the report. The proposal lacks positive measures for those waiting in reception centers while awaiting the result of their asylum application. These people are living under the most stressful conditions. It takes way too long before they can participate in the labour market under the current rules. NOAS thereby states that "No one benefits from asylum seekers first being broken down and then attempted rebuilt afterwards".

There are 20 000 asylum seekers living in Norwegian reception centers at present. The majority of whom will attain a residence permit in Norway. NOAS points to the need to direct work participation and language training measures to these at a far earlier point. NOAS also states that the envisioned 59 million to be used on integration measures is far too little, especially given the dramatic drop in asylum seekers to Norway from 2015.

As a whole the objectives of the report seems good and reasonable. However, it remains to be seen how much the government can attain in these matters. For in other crucial fields of integration the present government has often defaulted. For example, it has failed to put forward a new national action-plan against discrimination. The last one was delivered by the "red-green" government and valid until 2013. Along with an increased stereotyping rhetoric concerning immigration and asylum seekers as potential threats to " national values", the record for the current government is already on the weak side.

- Jørgen Flatabø