Norway: Welfare system destroying Somali families

Norway: Welfare system destroying Somali families

Trying to look into this issue, I found this amazing statistic: Most Somali women in Canada are single mothers and the divorce rate is extremely high. Welfare is not the only reason. See also Sweden: Immigrants more likely to divorce

Many Somalis are divorced according to Norwegian law, but are married according to Islamic law, says Kadra Yusuf. She thinks Norway's' good welfare-system is paradoxically enough destroying Somali families.

The figures from Statistics Norway show that there are 2.5 times as many single parents among Somalis as there are among other immigrants.

A paradox, says Kadra Yusuf.

In an opinion piece in today's VG she urges politicians to discuss the problem of welfare fraud from an ethnic perspective.

"Why do so many people from a conservative Sunni-Muslim country suddenly divorce when they come to Norway?" she asks.

Yusuf says that many Somalis divorce for economic reasons and continue to live together. This means they live in fear that the authorities will come to the door and discover the fraud, she thinks.

"The man in the house is chased out during the day, and the mother remains alone with the responsibility for the children. Many men go the khat community in Grønland. The family structures crumble, and there's chaos at home," says Kadra Yusuf.

She thinks the Norwegian welfare system encourages couples to divorce, and rewards single mothers with many children.

"These support arrangements become a poverty trap for the Somalis," she says. Somalis should be required to do more than just live off welfare.

Politicians are afraid of stigmatizing, but they should be willing to take on the dreary debates too. Benefits for single parents is a social benefit that many use, but it's being abused and Somali children are losing from it, says Kafra Yusuf.

Magne Fladby, director of the National Insurance Verification and collection agency, says that they're aware of the high risk for this type of fraud among Somalis.

"We get tips that this is widespread among Somalis. This is a benefits area we have a strong focus on in order to discover abuse," he says.

Fladby says that they don't have statistics based on ethnicity, and have no special measures directed only at Somalis. "We actively work to uncover abuses among single parents in general," he says.

The figures on abuse of welfare benefits for single parents increased sharply in recent years. In 2008, his agency uncovered fraud of 2.3 million kroner. In 2010 they uncovered a record high of 8.2 million kroner.

Source: VG (Norwegian)