Engelsk • English

Afshan Rafiq

Former representative of the Conservative Party (H) in the Storting

What is important for newly arrived immigrants to know about Norwegian society?

It is important that they receive a quick, simple introduction into Norwegian history, the political system, Norwegian laws and rules, and the obligations and responsibilities they have because they live in Norway.

What does Norwegian society expect from immigrants?

That they comply with Norwegian laws and rules, learn the Norwegian language, and adapt to Norwegian society.

What do immigrants expect from Norwegian society?

Immigrants expect to be able to maintain their culture, identity and traditions. They expect there to be mutual respect, understanding and tolerance for each other’s differences. Most want to get a job and become self-sufficient as soon as possible, but experience discrimination in the job market.

Discrimination and thus a lack of integration is an issue I am particularly interested in. We know that many people with ethnic minority backgrounds are discriminated against in the job market. We know that they have difficulties getting a job, and that many who get work, get a job at a level lower than is appropriate for their qualifications, abilities, ambitions and willingness to make a contribution. Many experience problems getting their foreign qualifications approved and gaining work experience in this country. I therefore want to work on putting a more effective approval system in place, so that competent people can get a job that equates with their abilities and qualifications. Everyone agrees that work is the key to successful integration. It is absolutely crucial that everyone has an opportunity to support themselves and their family so they can become a full member of Norwegian society.

It is also the case that many businesses need more workers. At the same many people with ethnic minority backgrounds have difficulties getting a job. Given these circumstances I think it is a paradox that job seekers with foreign names are not even called in for job interviews, even if they have Norwegian qualifications or fulfil the qualification requirements. This is a waste of human resources, which Norwegian society can ill afford. The challenge here is to find ways of making it easier for more people who want to make a contribution through work to gain entry into the job market. There is no simple solution, but the most important thing is to achieve coordination between employment measures and businesses. In addition to this, a conscious effort must be made to change the perception that most Norwegian employers have which, like the Norwegian proverb says, is that “Alike children play best together”. The fundamental criterion must be whether or not the individual is qualified to fill a particular position, not their ethnic background.

Have you experienced any misunderstandings?

No, and I think this is primarily because I was born here and grew up in Norway, understand the society pretty well and am completely fluent in Norwegian. This helps to reduce the risk of being misunderstood.

What are your hopes for the future?

I want a society in which everyone is guaranteed the right to be different. All people, regardless of their ethnic background, should have the same opportunities to fulfil their potential: to get a job, to become self-sufficient and to support themselves and their families. The fundamental point is that people should be treated as individuals with the same right to be respected for their integrity and uniqueness, regardless of who they are or their ethnic background.

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