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Who can come, who can stay and who deserves a worthy life?

| By Berit Kvam

Sweden is a strong proponent for a generous and open immigration policy. The differences between the Nordic countries become clear. Minister for Integration Erik Ullenhag stands out when he talks to the Nordic Labour Journal.

He warns against what he sees to be developing in several European countries — anti-immigrant parties on the rise and a general move towards stricter and more immigrant-critical policies. Nevertheless, new measures for better integration is being promoted by many.

The eye of the needle is narrow. Even those who get in cannot compete without the language skills or networks. This is where integration policies ought to help: giving people the chance to create a worthy life in a new country. The result must be built on a mutual process. Erik Ullenhag wants to work towards a new Swedish “us”. 

Integration and immigration is hotly debated in Norway too. For the country’s new blue-blue government comprising the Conservatives and the Progress Party, a stricter asylum and immigration policy is a main aim. Fewer should get in, and those who are not granted permission to stay will be quickly sent out of the country. The government has entered into a special agreement with supporting parties in parliament aimed at securing just this kind of development. Money saved from asylum centres will be used to improve the integration of those who are allowed to stay. Jobs and a place to live are important elements, but language skills remain the key to good integration, says the Minister for Integration Solveig Horne in our Portrait. Few would argue with that. The question is, as she too points out, whether the training is good enough, and who should have access to it.  

In our overview over the importance of employment in integration politics in the Nordic countries we quote OECD statistics which show Finland welcomes fewer immigrants than most. Here too immigration remains crucial. Finnish Tarja Filatov, former Minister of Employment and now head of the parliamentary labour and social committee, praises what has been done to improve integration in Finland, but she wants to see the decision process for residency permits sped up. Who can come and who must go? It doesn’t really matter in the greater scheme of things. Most immigrants to the Nordic countries come as a result of the free movement of labour in a crisis-hit Europe. People driven by a dream of a steady job and a safe life, like Poles in Norway. New measures for improved integration are not so much aimed at labour migrants, however. Their movements are governed by the market forces, and this might well be the main challenge.


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