Multi-ethnic Norway and Norweigian immigration.

Author:Eriksen, Thomas Hylland

Norway is generally regarded as a homogeneous country with a small, scattered population who speak the same language and belong to the same culture. Nevertheless, like almost every other country--it has always consisted of an ethnic and cultural mix of peoples.

The Sami and Finnish speaking groups in the north are the best-known minorities, but the gypsies and the so called taters (a group related to the gypsies) have been a permanent component of Norwegian society for hundreds of years. One should not forget either that immigration from Germany, Denmark. Sweden and Finland has in certain periods been both important and of considerable proportions, right since the Middle Ages.

Nevertheless, it is only in the last ten years that the issue of ethnic minorities has appeared on the agenda in the Norwegian community. This is due to a number of factors, among them the growth of the Sami movement. But the most important is the immigration from non-European countries. Up to the late 1960s, there were virtually no immigrants in Norway from countries outside Europe. Now, there are more than 100,000 immigrants and they constitute two and a half per cent of the population. In comparison with other countries like Sweden and Great Britain Norway has few immigrants, but immigration and the new, multiethnic nature of the community have nevertheless a central place in popular debate.

The first and still the largest group of non-European immigrants were the Pakistanis. They were initially invited to Norway as "guest workers" in 1969 and within a few years were followed by others from the same parts of Pakistan, often relatives. During this same period immigrants also came from other countries, most importantly Turkey.

Like many other West European countries, Norway imposed a ban on immigration in 1975. The economy had deteriorated and unemployment was on the rise. There was no longer a need for unskilled labor. But immigration from these same countries continued in the 1970s and into the 80s as a result of factors such as family reunions.

Many immigrants came to Norway in the 1980s and 90s too. This was no longer a question of imported labor but human rights put into practice. The immigrants of this period were mainly political refugees, coming from countries like Pinochet's Chile, Khomeini's Iran, Sri Lanka, where civil was raged, Vietnam, Turkish Kurdistan, Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

A Norwegian integration policy is formulated

Strictly speaking an immigrant is a person who was born in a different country to the one where he or she now lives. Thus, Swedes, Britons and North Americans who live in Norway are just as much immigrants as are the Pakistanis and Kurds. Most immigrants from other rich countries--who comprise about half of the total immigrant population...

To continue reading