Municipalities in Norway will be required to settle a further 35,000 refugees in 2023 | Photo: Imago/YAY Micro
Municipalities in Norway will be required to settle a further 35,000 refugees in 2023 | Photo: Imago/YAY Micro

Norway has accepted over 32,000 mostly Ukrainian refugees so far this year, according to Norwegian government figures. The non-EU country expects to take in a similar number in 2023.

More than 32,000 refugees have arrived in Norway so far this year "or are on the way to being settled," the Norwegian Ministry of Labour and Inclusion said in late November. This figure is seven times higher than the number of refugees settled in Norway the previous year, according to the government.

According to a press release, all of the country's municipalities have welcomed refugees, most of whom are from Ukraine and have temporary collective protection. Accepting refugees is a voluntary matter for the municipalities, the press release stated.

"Norwegian municipalities have managed to settle a record number of refugees at unprecedented speed," Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre is quoted as saying.

"Many people have warmly welcomed the refugees who seek shelter in our country. We will continue to be there for them in the time ahead," the head of government added.

Temporary collective protection applies to Ukrainian nationals who lived in Ukraine before February 24, 2022, or Ukrainian nationals who were legal residents of Norway but their previous basis of remaining in Norway has lapsed, a non-European national who was granted protection in Ukraine before the Russian invasion, or a close family member of someone granted temporary collective protection regardless of nationality.

Applications from asylum seekers not covered by this scheme will be reviewed individually according to the normal international protection procedure.

Also read: Norway takes in 20 Ocean Viking ship migrants following France-Italy dispute

'Impressive efforts' by municipalities

Norway's Minister for Labour and Inclusion, Marte Mjøs Persen, meanwhile said that Norway has never settled so many refugees. He particularly praised smaller municipalities that have taken in a very high proportion of new residents in relation to their size.

According to said press release, refugees make up the equivalent of more than 2% of residents in 30 of the smaller municipalities. In larger municipalities, this percentage stands at 0.3%.

"The sound work by the municipalities is key to our success," Persen is quoted in the same press release. The minister also pointed out that the number of those who arrived this year, is as high as the combined figure of refugees that arrived in Norway in past five years.

Settlement scheme mainly benefits Ukrainian refugees

Most of the refugees covered by the settlement scheme in Norway have fled the war in Ukraine. Like in many EU countries, the Norwegian government has granted temporary collective protection for Ukrainian refugees.

Refugees with temporary collective protection are granted a residence permit in Norway for a year at a time. This means that they can get public assistance to find housing and are eligible for certain benefits. Children, moreover, are allowed to go to school or kindergarten, and adults have the right to work.  

In said press release, the Norwegian government said it expects most people who received temporary protection this year to remain in Norway in 2023 and that many people will apply for continued protection in 2023.

In addition, the Norwegian government said it has asked Norwegian municipalities to take in a further 35,000 refugees in 2023. However, it didn't indicated whether this number applies predominantly or exclusively to people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

According to UNHCR, Norway reported 1,387 registered asylum seekers in 2020 -- the lowest number in 30 years -- the majority coming from Syria, Eritrea and Turkey. This rose slightly in 2021 to 1,568 asylum applications with more applicants from Afghanistan, after the return of the Taliban. The majority of applications in 2022 were lodged by Afghan, Syrian and Ukrainian nationals.


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