Where Did It All Go So Terribly Wrong?

Putting liberal thinking aside for the benefit of a religiously conditioned refugee policy must be problematic for Prime Minister Erna Solberg. (Photo: Eirin Larsen, the Prime Minister’s Office)

Commentary: I don’t know where it all went wrong for the Norwegian government. Was it when the Progress Party left the government, or when the Christian Democrats entered it? Either way, it all went sideways.

It all went so wrong that it has become necessary to re-write the liberal ideology that was to follow from a government based on conservative value thinking, reinforced by a political movement with love of one’s neighbor in its very party name.

Time and again, Norwegian policies against refugees have been tightened. So much so that eventually, somebody in power was proud in all earnestness to boast that the government had managed to save a handful of refugees out from one of the worst refugee camps in the world.

A devil at the door

They wanted us to believe that humanism had been victorious against egotism. Of course, it had not. “The rescue operation” barely carried any symbolic value, though it was large enough to fill a few press conferences with self-boasting.

Managed to save a handful of refugees

When some of us had come to believe that it was impossible to shut the door any tighter between desperate misery and the Norwegian welfare heaven, there was nevertheless a petty devil at the door.

The solution was a requirement stating that quota refugees should bring a religious cause in their otherwise meagre baggage following them from one camp to the next.

That is how the Christian Democrats and the Progress Party were able to meet in the recent budget settlement, an agreement that also represents a breach with all former moral indignation over politicians and voters who did not understand that greasing oil money all over the country in amounts exceeding the budgetary rule by far, was irresponsible.

I will leave that issue be, though the economic policies led with a pandemic backdrop also need a new ideological reasoning and understanding. Those who believe that the recent budget settlement represents a fight against Corona will be surprised if they were to read the agreement. Because what could possibly sailing boats, animal police or a rural road crossing on the west coast have to do with the pandemic?

Ideological collapse

If the use of money represents an ideological reorientation, the refugee policy represents a pure u-turn.

One of the key reasons people flee, is faith and religion. In many countries, having the “right” faith is the difference between life and death. Only the most resourceful are able to flee torture and abuse.

Satisfy our national declaration of faith

Now, escaping the despots of one’s home country is no longer enough.

Refugees’ religious convictions are also to decide whether or not they will be admitted to Norway in the future, or whether they will be condemned to a life in endless flight.

We no longer help people in need. We help people who are Christians or have another “right” faith, and who thus satisfy our national declaration of faith.

I am not surprised that the Christian Democrats find this to be perfectly right. The party does not follow a traditional ideology.

What is problematic, in addition to the budget settlement itself, is the fact that a religiously based refugee policy is enforced while a liberal, value conservative party runs the country.


This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.