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The Prime Minister's New Year's speech

Refugees and migrants, in Norway and the World were main topics of Prime Minister Erna Solberg's speech on radio and TV to the nation on New Year's Day.

 

- This year, Solberg said, there are more of us welcoming in the new year in Norway than there were last year, and continued:

- Not only because of the 60 000 children who have been born, and the many people who have come from other parts of Europe to work here, but also because 30 000 people have come here to seek asylum. 

Crises and conflicts are causing millions of people to flee from desperate situations.

We are experiencing the spillover effects here in Norway.

Norwegians have travelled to conflict zones, become foreign fighters, and have carried out brutal acts of violence.

We have received asylum seekers who have fled from the same conflicts.

We have seen acts of terrorism in Paris, Beirut, Copenhagen and other cities.

Norwegian lives have been lost.

Stories of terrible suffering and cruelty are spread on the internet, in the press and on TV.

I can understand why many people are anxious.

And it is important that we enhance our preparedness and fight terrorism.

We must be sure that our way of life and our democracy are not threatened. 

Conflicts in other parts of the world have consequences for us in Norway. Our security depends on what is happening elsewhere.

In Afghanistan and Iraq, Norwegian soldiers are training forces that will fight terrorism in their own country. In this way, they are strengthening our security too. Aid workers and volunteers are also helping to promote peace.

I would like to send a greeting to the Norwegian soldiers and other Norwegians who are working for peace and security, and I thank you for the important job you are doing on behalf of us all.

In well-functioning democracies where human rights and security are safeguarded, conflict can be prevented, and there is no need for people to flee their homes. 

Many of those who have fled their homes have had to leave loved ones behind. Some have seen adults and children being swallowed up by the waves in the Mediterranean. Some have walked across Europe with a small child on their shoulders.

The 2015 they are saying goodbye to is quite different from the year you and I are leaving behind us.

But our wishes for the new year are the same wherever we come from.

To be able to support ourselves and those who depend on us.

To know that our families are safe and well.

Many of those who have come to Norway need protection. But many have also come from places that are safe. 

That is why we have tightened our legislation. Now fewer are arriving, and we are returning those not eligible to stay more quickly.

The work of the police and the security services is essential for our security. We must have control of our borders and of people entering the country.

A strict but fair asylum policy gives a clear signal that the institution of asylum is there for those in need of protection.

Those who are granted asylum must be welcomed with traditional Norwegian hospitality.

Or as Solbjørg Mikkola, from the refugee service in Sør-Varanger (the municipality bordering Russia) put it:

With humanity, respect and a spirit of cooperation.

Cooperation is vital for successful integration.

New arrivals must be willing to comply with our legislation and rules. They must be willing to learn Norwegian, to work, and to take an active part in society.

Integration is never without problems. But nor is it impossible.

16-year-old Ali al-Jabri from Stovner, a suburb northeast of Oslo, has shown that integration doesn’t need to be difficult. 

Together with several other teenagers, he visits elderly people in a local residential care home – to the mutual enjoyment and benefit of young and old. This volunteer visitor scheme is an example to follow for young people all over the country.

Ali al-Jabri has invited people to come and see how integration works in practice. I intend to do just that.

He is an outstanding example of the many young Norwegians with an immigrant background who are making an invaluable contribution to integration. 

In many countries we are seeing a battle of values. Between our values and the values of extremists. 

There are no ghettos in Norway. There are no areas where young people see nothing but hopelessness.

We must make sure that things stay that way. That everyone growing up in Norway feels part of a society that gives those who work hard the opportunity to succeed.

The Storting, the Government and the local authorities cannot do this on their own.

If our values are to prevail, we must achieve what we can call ‘everyday integration’. 

We can all play our part.

Could your children’s class be divided into groups so that they can visit each other’s homes after school? This is a good way for children who have recently arrived in our country to experience home life in ordinary Norwegian families.

Do you have room for another child in your car, so that you could give a refugee child a lift to football practice?

Do you have any good Norwegian children’s books that you could give to a refugee family who have just arrived in your district?

Could you volunteer to become a guardian or a foster parent for an unaccompanied minor?

And those of you who are employers, can you make sure that people with foreign-sounding surnames are not overlooked in recruitment processes?

It is everyday decisions that bring about everyday integration.

We will all win if we succeed with integration. We will all lose if we fail.

Our beloved King and Queen have shown a deep commitment to social inclusion. We will celebrate their silver jubilee in 2016. For 25 years, their wisdom, insight and thoughtfulness have helped to strengthen the sense of solidarity and community that Norway is known for. 

We thank you for this.

Last year, the King and Queen visited the arrival centre for asylum seekers in Østfold county.

They saw a huge apparatus being set up in record time. I would like to thank all the employees in the Directorate of Immigration and the National Police Immigration Service for their efforts in this connection.

Few people appreciate the scale of the crisis you are dealing with all over the country. Your dedication and ability to get things done is truly impressive. The voluntary sector has also played an important part in this work.

Our next challenge is to help all those who are going to start a new life in a local community and who need to find work at a time when unemployment is on the rise. 

Our economy is facing a difficult process of restructuring. The fall in oil prices means that changes are taking place sooner than we had thought.

Several people are asking how we will tackle this.

The answer is that we must create more jobs.

We will build the country in the years ahead.

We will build new roads and railways, develop new ideas, and create new products and climate-friendly solutions.

We will carry out more research, and we will support more development and innovation in the business sector.

We have major tasks ahead of us.

And we have many people who want to work. We must put the two together.

More of us must be willing to create our own jobs.

More must invest in Norwegian jobs. 

The challenge may seem very great.

But we have a well-educated population, good technological skills, rich resources, and a tradition of close cooperation between the social partners.

We have the best possible starting point. That is why I am confident that together we can meet this challenge.

Ensuring that more people have a job to go to will be the Government’s most important task in the years ahead.

The jobs of the future will require skills and expertise.

An employment market where more people are excluded will create social disparities. That’s not the kind of society I want.

So I will repeat my call to employers: Give a refugee or someone with gaps in their CV a chance.

Many employers have done just that.

Few have regretted it.

Adults who do not have the basic literacy and numeracy skills needed to find employment must get better help. 

We must identify what each person needs, and make it easier for them to fill the gaps.

Whenever we succeed in this, we will be opening up new opportunities for that person.

It takes courage for a grown man to ask for help with learning to read.

But I’ve heard that men are courageous.

Whether you are a man or a women, young or old, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Help may be closer to hand than you think.

Having a job can open many doors.

And we need you in the workplace.

At the start of a new year our minds turn to the opportunities that lie ahead. The opportunities for each and every one of us, for our country, and for the planet we all share. 

Before Christmas, the whole world gathered together in Paris.

The opportunity that lay ahead then was a climate agreement that would steer the world away from dangerous increases in temperature.

The world’s leaders grasped that opportunity. If the Paris Agreement is translated into action, it will be the turning point we’ve been hoping for.

Norway has made extensive commitments on reducing emissions. This work has already started.

Achieving our targets will be no easy task.

But we will keep the promises we have made to the rest of the world, and to our children and grandchildren.

Important international decisions, the Paris Agreement and the global support for the new Sustainable Development Goals show that, although we are living in turbulent times, the world is moving forward. Step by step. 

Here in Norway we are constantly building our society.

Step by step.

The major challenges, like climate change, the refugee crisis and unemployment, get a lot of attention. It’s easy to get the impression that nothing else is going on.

Fortunately, that is not the case.

Patients wait less time now for treatment, and we are aiming to reduce waiting times even further in 2016.

2015 saw the lowest number of traffic deaths of any year in modern times. Both cars and roads are becoming safer.

In 2014, businesses increased their research and development activities considerably. This will help to create new jobs.

We are solving more and more challenges.

2016 will bring new challenges. We must help refugees to integrate into everyday life, and we must create new jobs.

Working together, the people of Norway have shown an extraordinary ability to find good solutions in the past. To find ways of making our society better and stronger. Step by step.

And I am confident that we will do so again now.

Happy New Year.

(Ministry press release)

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