Norway: No follow-up on integration subsidies

Norway: No follow-up on integration subsidies

Since 1987, immigrant organizations in Norway have received 220 million kroner in public integration subsidies, but little was done to find out whether the money had any effect.

Aftenposten had gone through all the subsidy arrangements. There is no overall summary, but several hundred million kroner were given out.

Rogaland Research/Agder Resarch concluded in a report from 2007 that close to 80% of the organizations that received integration subsidies are ethnic-based. The subsidies were not really evaluated. The report says that there's a certain uncertainly as to what was achieved with those subsidies. The report concludes saying that third-parties close to the immigrant-based groups say that they're mostly composed of friends and acquaintances.

Fafo researcher Anne Britt Djuve worked on integration and immigration for years. She says that it can be better for immigrants to participate in an ethnic association rather than not being active at all. But, she says, if the integration subsidies are given to immigrant organizations so that they'll learn about Norwegian society, one can ask if this is sensible use of the money.

Every nationality has a great number of association, usually divided by links to towns in their homeland. Sometimes the dividing lines between organizations is tribal. In Oslo alone, 500 immigrant organizations have applied for public support in one form or another within the past decade. These include 54 Somali organizations, 46 Pakistani, 14 Turkish and 13 Tamil.

The number of immigrant organizations is increasing, and today there are about 1,000 organizations nationally. The subsidies are given both as money linked to the number of members in the organizations and as different forms of project subsidies for integration.

Millions of kroner given in public integration support were granted throughout the years so that immigrants will preserve their national and cultural identity: Vietnamese football association, Tamil radio, sports meetings for Tami children, Somali Christmas, Vietnamese New Year's, Finish mother's day, Polish children's club, Afghan Eid festivities and gatherings are some of the examples.

This was a deliberate policy from the government's side. But since 2009, the wish was to prioritize measures and activities across ethnic and national groups. But the integration support continues to be given to activities directed at their own ethnic groups. For example "soldier's day" for Vietnamese veterans and Albanian radio.

Aftenposten's review of the county reports to the Directory of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) shows often lacking and superficial reports of the effects of the subsidies. The counties are often at the mercy of the organization's own reports. The county's annual reports don't have many examples of 'active participation, diversity, dialog and trade' to point to.

According to Arne Thomassen, special adviser to the Akershus county, the reports are partially lacking. "Some are good, some are less good." he says, and particlalrly lacking are reports about participation in the projects.

The report from Rogaland Research/Agder Resarch shows that only one county visited the organizations that received financial support for activities.

Aslam Ahsan is one of those who received most support for integration projects through the organization "Resource Center for Pakistani Children". The organization has been shut down. "I think it's very weird that 4th generation immigration should get support for membership in an ethnic organization. If people want to take care of their own culture, it's up to them. It's not the state's problem. If people maintain such support, it doesn't look like integration, in any case. My experience is that the activities in these ethnic organizations stop at the door," he says.

Ahsan says that those who grant the money must see if such subsidies actually help integration. In order to become part of Norwegian society, people should participate in Norwegian venues.

Source: Aftenposten (Norwegian)

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