Norwegians and glass houses

The great glass house in the National Botanic Garden of Wales is the prettiest green house I have seen, but it still doesn't give you much protection when the rocks starts falling.
The great glass house in the National Botanic Garden of Wales is the prettiest green house I have seen, but it still doesn’t give you much protection when the rocks starts falling. Photo: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere via Wikimedia Commons

There were several Norwegian news outlets that ran a story with the following headline yesterday: Russia rises above the European Court of Human Rights (my translation). The background for this was a new Russian law that can be used to stop decisions made the Court of Human Rights. This is how the story appeared in The Independent.

The different Norwegian papers ran almost the same article word for word because it came from the news agency NTB, which serves many of the large media outlets in Norway. The short article includes a statement from the former Norwegian politician and present Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland. He calls it regrettable, but he seems to be more concerned with the democratic process than the outcome. On the Council of Europe’s own website Jagland states that a solution should be possible.

It is of course a bad idea when powerful countries decide that they can do whatever they want because no one can stop them, but not surprising at all. This is a behaviour we recognize from out own allies, as well as from our own leaders. Everybody else is doing it, but that doesn’t mean that we should too. The only difference between us and more powerful countries is that we pretend to be more concerned with equality and justice.

I spent 15 minutes doing some quick Google searches and wrote about it on my Norwegian blog last night. All the articles I found are in Norwegian, so I won’t bother linking to them here. If you want to check them out here is a link to the Norwegian post.

All children residing in Norway are included in the Convention on the Rights of Children, and that gives them the right to stay here, but Norwegian authorities have a long history of deporting minors that come here alone as asylum seekers. I just read in the paper that there are nine children in Norway at the moment that the government claim have no rights for protection in Norway and they will be sent back.

The Church City Mission in Norway said four years ago that there were 400 undocumented children in Norway (they had no id-papers). These are children that go to kindergarten or school and their parents work and pay tax in Norway. I think the situation has become a little better since then, but I still hear about cases where children born in Norway are deported together with their parents. The last case I heard about happened in my home town. The parents came to Norway from Iran in 2003. Their first daughter was born the next year and the second daughter two year later. They have been fighting since April to stay here, but they just lost their final appeal in court. The children can get to stay here, but not the parents. What a dilemma! I wouldn’t want my daughter to grow up in Iran, but I wouldn’t leave her either. Here is an article where you can see some pictures of the two girls. This is hard to understand because the politicians constantly talk about how we need immigration so that we will have a large enough labour force in the future, and this is  a group of children that are least likely to become radicalized.

I’m sure there are some success stories too, but the elderly care is generally quite tragic in Norway. According to the state broadcasting corporation the health director acknowledged that he knew about several cases of violations of human rights in retirement homes. We all know what goes on in some of these institutions and I don’t think this revelation surprised anyone.

The Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman submitted a report two months ago that concluded that Norway violates the human rights of disabled people. Save the Children reported last year that Norway violates the rights of children. The main problem is that children have no opportunity to complain if they feel that their rights have been violated.

TV2 reported on the Norwegian use of police cells, which is a violation of human rights. I am not sure how to translate the word, but I’m talking about a very simple cell with just a thin mattress on a concrete floor. The violation has to do with the design of the cells and the time they keep prisoners there. This is pretty extreme because there are no furniture, the WC is on the same level as the floor, the prisoner doesn’t get any human contact at all. It’s meant to be used for up to 48 hours, but many prisoners stay there longer.

A site for Norwegian health information published an article in 2013 that dealt with coercion in psychiatry. According to the article Norway is the European country with the highest proportion of involuntary commitments in mental institutions, and many of them see this as a violation. It is also a fact that refugees generally don’t receive the psychiatric treatment they need.

I came across two articles from February 2014 and February 2015 where the Chief County Medical Officer in my county was concerned about unlawful use of coercion at child welfare institutions.

These were just a few hits that showed up on the first page in different Google searches. The situation may have improved in some of these cases, but this shows that doing the right thing may not be as straightforward as we pretend. When I listen to some Norwegians I get the impression that it’s up to us to show the world how decent people should behave towards each other. I decided a long time ago it was just as well not trying to understand our relation to the USA. We love America and in the region I live there are places where you sometimes wonder if you woke up in Nebraska or some other place in the Midwestern Unites States. This is like a time machine where people have preserved the America Donald Trump is desperately looking for. We also like to criticize and any negative news that comes out of the USA could never happen here of course. We are just one, big happy family here. That reminds me. We are talking a lot about refugees these days, but I wonder for how long we are going to deceive ourselves. I’m not sure we are fooling anyone else, except for a few refugees for a short while perhaps. The truth will dawn on them soon enough.

When I started writing about the refugees last summer I thought the altruistic mood would shift, but the antipathies came sooner that I thought. There certainly hasn’t been much Christmas spirit so far in December, and there are many morons blaming the refugees. The truth is that we are not more altruistic than other countries, and I think many may find that a fancy glass house is not a pleasant shelter when the rocks starts flying through the air.

Maybe we should think about that before we criticize others.

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