Norway's Top Authority Revokes A Decision By A City To Only Take Ukrainian Refugees

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A top authority in Norway said Tuesday that it was revoking a decision by a city council to only take Ukrainian refugees and not others, saying it was contrary to the Norwegian Constitution and the Scandinavian country's discrimination laws.

The office of the Country Governor of Oslo and Viken had asked the right-leaning municipal council in Drammen to explain its February decision that it would be easier to integrate Ukrainians in the society. The governor said the municipal decision “involves direct discrimination based on nationality."

The council had faced wide criticism in Norway after deciding on Feb. 13 to only accept Ukrainian refugees. Up to a third of the population of Drammen are immigrants or have immigrant background.

Norway’s Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who heads a center-left government, had said that Norway’s 357 municipalities cannot decide for themselves which refugees they accept — only how many they can take in. He condemned the municipal decision and said it was “not legal."

Drammen is ruled by a majority made up of the conservative Hoeyre, the Progress Party, the Christian Democrats and the small Pensioners’ Party.

Kristin Surlien, a senior member of Hoeyre in Norway’s fifth largest town, told the local newspaper Drammens Tidende that the ruling was a surprise. “We take note of the decision and will discuss the way forward both internally in the Conservative Party and between the four parties.”

Figures earlier provided by Drammen said there were some 103,000 inhabitants in the municipality in 2023. Of those, nearly a third — roughly 31,000 — are either immigrants or are Norwegian-born citizens of immigrant parents.

According to Norway Statistics, there are mainly Poles, Lithuanians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Somalis. The Scandinavian country of 5.5 million people has since 2022 given shelter to 70,800 Ukrainians, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration.

In 2023, there were 877,227 migrants in Norway, mainly from Poland, Lithuania, Sweden, Somalia and Germany, according to official statistics.