Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg: Our response to the refugee crisis must be shared

Norway can play a role in assisting affected countries with asylum and migration

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European leaders face the demanding task of dealing with the refugee crisis. It is going to require cooperation, good common solutions and vigour. Norway will contribute.

In his speech to the European Parliament, President Juncker reminded us of our common history. During WW2, 60 million refugees arrived in Europe. The 1951 Refugee Convention ensured the rights of these displaced people. Our humanitarian traditions developed over time in response to this.

The first thing we must realise is that the current situation could persist over a long period of time, and will require many of us. No European country can set itself on the sidelines in the work of the refugee crisis.

Norway provides significant humanitarian and development assistance in countries where people migrate or are expelled from. During 2015, we have increased our humanitarian assistance to countries in conflict and to refugees to a record level. We have initiated a donor conference to ensure increased funding for UN humanitarian appeal for Syria. Urgent financial support is needed to meet people's basic needs in Syria's neighboring areas. We must help the refugees there.

Norway has undertaken to accept a significant number of refugees from Syria until 2017. These refugees are people who are picked out by UNHCR and who have a need to be moved out of the region. We will receive them in the spirit of inclusivity, and they will experience the full range of opportunities and security in a Norwegian municipality.

Before summer, we agreed with Greece that Norwegian EEA funds should go to a reception centre for refugees on the island of Lesbos. This illustrates that Norway can play a role in assisting affected countries in their efforts with asylum and migration. We envisage further strengthening these efforts in the next EEA financial period.

The large influx of asylum seekers to Europe is challenging. In August alone, 156,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe. We have seen images of sometimes chaotic conditions where the Dublin Regulation and border controls have been unenforceable. A joint European response must come, and quickly.

 

Although a large proportion of those who come are refugees, we must discuss measures to limit the influx of people without an urgent need for protection. The EU has launched the concept of “safe third countries” to ensure the quick return of people who come from countries deemed safe to return asylum-seekers to. In Norway we have already established a 48-hour procedure to ensure quick return of unfounded asylum-seekers.

The EU has also introduced a system of organised assistance to countries that are experiencing pressure from high rates of migration, so-called “hotspots”. EU countries work together to assist with the reception and processing of asylum seekers, and to cover the humanitarian needs of this group.

Norway will follow the European debate closely and will consider how we can further contribute. This is a shared commitment.

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