GENEVA (6 December 2018) - The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic report of Norway on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Introducing the report, Tom Erlend Skaug, State Secretary at the Ministry of Children and Equality of Norway, reiterated Norway’s commitment to fight racism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism, social control and prejudice based on gender, sexual identity and ethnicity. Norway wanted to be a country where everyone had the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background. The National Human Rights Institution had been set up in 2015, while the new and comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act of 2017 was enforced by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal and courts. Integration was one of the main priorities and the Government’s policy aimed to provide opportunities for refugees and other immigrants to participate in the workforce and community life; its most important instruments were the introduction programme and the Norwegian language training and social studies. An action plan against anti-Semitism of 2016 was a response to incidents of hate crimes and hate speech both at home and in other European countries, and a strategy against hate speech for 2016-2020 had been launched. Consultations with the Sami Parliament had been formalized since 2005, and a bill amending the Sami Act in consultation matters had been presented to Parliament in 2018.
The National Human Rights Institution of Norway urged the Government to ensure that police districts gave high priority to the investigation of hate speech and hate crimes, secured Sami land and resource rights outside Finnmark (Norway’s northernmost province), and prevented early school dropout among Roma children. There was the lack of equal treatment in recruitment processes, with a visible minority background often being a disadvantage in the labour market.
Committee Experts were impressed by Norway’s policies and approaches to address racial discrimination and urged it to become a leader in tackling racial profiling, including through the use of biometric and facial recognition methods or cybersecurity policies. Racism and racial discrimination were factors that often came into play in terms of access to employment, particularly for people of African descent, and this was another area that needed attention, they said. Experts raised concern about an increasingly polarized public debate when it came to refugees, migrants and integration, and an increasing visibility of racist and Nazi groups in social media. They asked about measures taken to prevent hate speech, particularly where there was no editorial control of the media, and welcomed the Stop Hate Speech campaign. Problems remained regarding the legal recognition of Sami rights to their land and resources outside the province of Finnmark, their sea fishing rights, and the implementation of free, prior and informed consent seemed to be lacking. Commenting on the draft law on elementary and secondary school curricula, Experts noted with concern that it seemed to diminish the relevance of the study of the history of the Second World War and the Holocaust, which was very pertinent given the state of the world today, and also asked how the power of education was harnessed in the fight against racism, anti-Semitism, and discrimination.
Keiko Ko, Committee Rapporteur for Norway, concluded by noting that many countries looked up to Norway, whose ideas, attitudes and approaches had an international impact.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Skaug reiterated Norway’s full commitment to human rights and equality of all regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, and stressed that the Convention was a basis for the legislation and policies aiming to fight racism and racial discrimination.
The delegation of Norway consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Children and Equality, Ministry of Local Government and Modernization, Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Health and Care Services, Ministry of Justice and Public Security, and the Permanent Mission of Norway to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will resume in public at 10 a.m. on Friday, 7 December, when it will informally meet with States.
The Committee has before it the combined twenty-third and twenty-fourth periodic report of Norway (CERD/C/NOR/23-24).
Presentation of the Report
TOM ERLEND SKAUG, State Secretary at the Ministry of Children and Equality of Norway, reminded that too many women, men and children around the world were daily denied their freedoms, rights and dignity. As long as that was the case, the Norwegian Government would never stop to fight for the protection and realization of human rights. He further expressed gratitude to the Sami Parliament, civil society organizations, the Norwegian National Human Rights Institution, the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman, the Sami Council and Kvenlandsforbundet who had all prepared supplementary reports to the Committee. Those supplementary reports formed an important basis for the dialogue with the Committee and for continuous work at home. The Norwegian Government confirmed that it would fight racism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism, social control, and prejudice based on gender, sexual identity and ethnicity. Equality was the underpinning principle in all Government policies. Norway wanted to be a country where everyone had the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background. In recent years, Norway had strengthened its framework for the protection of human rights. In 2014, a new human rights chapter had been added to the national Constitution. Furthermore, the promotion and protection of human rights had been strengthened with the establishment of a new National Human Rights Institution in 2015.
In 2017, Parliament had adopted a new comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act. The new act replaced four previous equality and anti-discrimination acts. It applied to all areas of society and it prohibited discrimination on the grounds of gender, pregnancy, parental leave, caring for children or close family members, ethnicity, religion or belief, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, and age. The Equality and Discrimination Act was enforced by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal and courts. The Tribunal could impose fines and award compensation in cases concerning discrimination in employment matters. In 2017, 55,700 children had received support from the child welfare services in Norway, out of which 82 per cent were involved in voluntary support measures, whereas the remaining 18 per cent concerned decisions about alternative care without the parents consenting. A report by the Council of Europe showed that Norway was among the Member States with the lowest proportion of children in alternative care. Children and youth with immigrant background were overrepresented among those who received help from the child welfare services. A study documented that care intervention measures differed little between children with immigrant background and others. The Government had launched the Municipal Child Welfare Services 2018-2024 in order to promote greater understanding and sensitivity in the follow-up of children and families with minority backgrounds. Issues such as violence, the use of interpreters and cultural knowledge were covered.
Integration was one of the main priorities of the Government’s political platform. The aim of the Government’s integration policy was to provide opportunities for refugees and other immigrants to participate in the workforce and community life. The introduction programme and the Norwegian language training and social studies were the most important instruments in helping immigrants to access work and education. As part of its integration policy, the Government was also working to prevent negative social control, such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage. As a response to incidents of hate crimes and hate speech both at home and in other European countries, the Government had issued an action plan against anti-Semitism in 2016. Freedom of expression was a fundamental human right and key to all democratic societies. Freedom of expression was challenging because it also covered statements that could be perceived as controversial, offensive or shocking. However, the Norwegian Government would not accept hate speech or incitement to hatred and violence. The work against hate speech was high on the Government’s agenda and it had launched a strategy against hate speech for 2016-2020. The Prime Minister had encouraged all politicians to be responsible and to remove hateful comments from their Facebook pages.
Mr. Skaug informed that in 2017, 549 cases of hate crimes had been reported to the police, which represented an increase of 17 per cent since 2016. The National Police District had published guidelines for use in police districts to ensure uniform and proper registration of hate crimes. The Norwegian Police University College offered a new course for further education in the field of prevention and investigation of hate crimes. In 2017, 12 crime support centres had been established in each police district in order to provide better follow-up on victims and relatives throughout prosecution. In the meantime, preventive work had to take place in many areas of society, including at school and in upbringing, culture, sports and political parties. Turning to immigration, Mr. Skaug informed that amendments to the Immigration Act of May 2018 had introduced several safeguards regarding the detention of minors accompanied by their parents, and on protecting women victims of domestic violence. Previous amendments to the Immigration Act in 2015 and 2017 concerned the ability of asylum seekers to seek asylum when they had entered through a country in which they were not persecuted.
Finally, the head of the delegation reminded that the consultations between the Government and the Sami Parliament had been formalized since 2005. In September 2018, the Government had presented to Parliament a bill on amendments to the Sami Act concerning consultations. The authorities were committed to fight violence in Sami communities in close relationship with Sami representatives, and they had allocated funds for research and preventive measures. An expert group had been established to counsel the Police Directorate and the relevant police districts on issues connected to Sami culture and language. Currently, the Government was working on the follow up to the Sami Language Committee report presented in 2016, and it had presented a plan to revitalize the Kven language. As an outcome of the collective reparation to the Norwegian Roma, a Roma culture and resource centre had opened in Oslo and it provided mediator services and an after-school club for children and youth.
National Human Rights Institution of Norway highlighted several issues. The first one was the need for a coordinated follow-up to the concluding observations from all treaty bodies, which would make it easier for the Government and all stakeholders to be informed about the status for follow-up and facilitate the preparation of upcoming periodic reports. Second, the State party should ensure that police districts gave high priority to the investigation of hate speech and hate crimes, and it should ensure comprehensive, reliable and standardized statistical data on hate speech and hate crimes. It should also strengthen coordination and further clarify responsibility among different justice sector institutions, such as the police, the Police Directorate, and the Prosecutor’s Office to ensure follow-up recommendations. Third, the State party should secure Sami land and resource rights outside Finnmark (Norway’s northernmost province), and it should come up with an action plan to address violence in Sami communities. Fourth, there was a need for enhanced dialogue between the Government and national minorities regarding a comprehensive plan to strengthen the Kven language, and the prevention of early school dropout among Roma children. Turning to unaccompanied asylum seekers, the Institution reminded that those aged 15-18 received less care than what was offered to other children in Norway. Finally, the Institution pointed out to the lack of equal treatment in recruitment processes, noting that a visible minority background could often be a disadvantage in the labour market.
Questions by the Country Rapporteur
KEIKO KO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Norway, observed the lack of statistical data on the basis of ethnicity, whereas such information was available on the Sami population. The Committee would welcome information on the ethnic composition of the society and the mother tongues spoken in the country.
Could the delegation provide more information about the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal and discrimination cases brought to it? Could the Tribunal grant damages for non-economic losses? Ms. Ko recalled that the Convention had not been incorporated into Norway’s Human Rights Act.
Turning to hate speech, she noted that Norway had become marked by an increasingly polarized public debate when it came to refugees, migrants and integration. In addition, racist and Nazi groups had become increasingly visible in social media. The question of regulating hate speech was more difficult than regulating hate crimes because interference in the private sphere may cause conflict with other fundamental human rights, most notably the freedom of speech and expression. What measures had the State party taken to prevent hate speech where there was no editorial control of the media?
With respect to prohibiting racist organizations, Ms. Ko reminded of the expressly stated obligations of States parties to the Convention to ban such organizations under article 4. The Committee was compelled to ask the State party why it did not fulfil that obligation.
On the situation of Sami, the Country Rapporteur noted that problems remained regarding the legal recognition of Sami rights to their land and resources outside the province of Finnmark, and their sea fishing rights. Some progress had been made with respect to free, prior and informed consent. What had happened with the draft bill on a new relevant chapter for the Sami Act in that respect?
Moving on to the situation of other ethnic minorities, Ms. Ko recalled that Norway had not implemented labour market measures specifically designed for Roma, nor special measures for national minorities in healthcare services.
As for immigrants in the labour market, the Country Rapporteur underlined that if it was essential for immigrants to be employed in order to be integrated in Norwegian society, the elimination of labour discrimination became imperative. However, the unemployment rate among immigrants was more than three times as high as in the rest of the population. Immigrants from Africa had the lowest employment rate after more than 10 years of residence in Norway. What measures had the State party taken to guarantee equal recruitment processes and employment opportunities in the public and private sector?
Questions by Other Committee Members
GUN KUT, Committee Member and Rapporteur for Follow-up to Concluding Observations, informed that the State party had submitted its follow-up report to the 2014 concluding observations on time. The Committee had requested an update on Sami land and resource rights outside the province of Finnmark, and had inquired about the lack of implementation of free, prior and informed consent. The Committee had also asked about the introduction of a Sami interpreter service and it still expected an update on that.
An Expert reminded that about 40 per cent of Sami women had been subjected to physical and psychological violence. Would Norway draft a specific action plan to curb violence against Sami women?
Pointing out to Sami protests against procedural deficiencies in the signing of the Norway-Finland bilateral agreement on fishing in the Tana River, one Expert asked Norway to re-negotiate that agreement and ensure Sami fishing rights in the river. Were there any compensation measures in place for the loss of Sami lands and limitation on their fishing and reindeer herding rights?
How were concerns regarding the drafting of a new consolidated law on anti-discrimination addressed? What were the cases dealt with by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal? What steps had been taken to improve the educational and employment outcomes of Roma and persons with immigrant background?
What were the results of the 2017 teacher education on group-based prejudices? How did history education assist the authorities’ goal to respect diversity and fight against racial discrimination? The Government had not initiated any initiatives or measures to implement the International Decade for People of African Descent, one Expert observed.
Another Expert noted that he had learned about the Norwegian Government drafting a law on elementary and secondary school curricula, which diminished the relevance of the study of the history of the Second World War and the Holocaust. What was the reason behind drafting such a law?
What amount of consultations had taken place between the Government and indigenous groups, in line with the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 169 on free, prior and informed consent? What was the role of ethnic groups in developing plans to tackle climate change?
Referring to the removal of citizenship for persons who had been fighting in Syria, an Expert inquired whether the State party had taken steps to ensure that they would not become stateless.
While Sami had access to television and radio to promote their language and culture, that was not the case for other minorities.
When it came to the prosecution of hate crimes, an Expert drew attention to racist posts of the Norwegian Progress Party on social networks and regretted the lack of prosecution.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation clarified that the new comprehensive Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act listed ethnicity, religion and belief as grounds for discrimination. The authorities had determined that the use of the term “race” was neither necessary nor desirable because it would only reinforce racist concepts.
Turning to Sami land and resource rights outside the province of Finnmark, the delegation explained that certain questions needed to be first clarified in Finnmark itself before proceeding south of that province. The Finnmark Commission had undertaken the study of landownership rights in the province itself and it would proceed to do the same in the south.
It was the view of the Government that the re-negotiation of the Tana River Fishery Agreement with Finland was unlikely to yield better results. The Sami Parliament had been consulted before the signing of the agreement, which aimed to preserve the biodiversity of Atlantic salmon and address excessive fishing. As for the compensation for the lost Sami grazing lands, the delegation noted that the compensation would require the expropriation of the grazing rights of other Sami people and that the Government would not pursue it.
The Sami Parliament had decided that the question of revitalization of the Sami languages should be part of Sami self-determination. With respect to consultation with Sami representatives, in September 2018 the Governments had presented an amendment to the Sami Act on rule for consultation.
As for violence against Sami women, the delegation explained that the previous action plan on violence against women had expired and the Government had not yet decided whether it should come up with a separate action plan on violence against Sami women. The authorities had engaged in research and fact-finding efforts in both Sami and other areas. Sami victims experienced difficulties in accessing support services due to language and cultural sensitivity barriers. Sami-speaking psychologists had been appointed to work with Sami children victims of sexual abuse and violence.
All sectors needed to ensure that everyone could participate in their community and that encompassed the provision of interpreters, in line with the Public Administration Act. Sami people had the right to use the Sami language in their communication with the administration. A bachelor programme in Sami interpretation had been established at the University of Oslo.
As for the Sami fishing rights, Norway acknowledged its international obligations to maintaining Sami fisheries and considered its regulations on the matter to be in line with its international obligations, including under the relevant International Labour Organization conventions. The national legislation on Sami fishing rights had been agreed with the Sami people representatives, as was the policy on regular consultation meetings. Equally, the participation of Sami in decision-making bodies had been increased, namely in the local fjord fishing advisory boards for the northernmost counties. The 2007 Reindeer Husbandry Act recognized the cultural importance of this activity, aimed to ensure its ecological sustainability, and established the governance rights of Sami in this domain. The Sami Parliament had participated in the Paris climate negotiations, and Parliament was considering passing the general consultation procedures into law.
The delegation acknowledged the legitimate concerns the Experts raised concerning hate speech, including online, and stressed that it was now most important to confront prejudice, ignorance and intolerance through education, dialogue and open public debate rather than restricting freedom of expression and assembly. That was why implementing wide-ranging programmes confronting racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and prosecuting the offenders were very high on the Government’s agenda. Some hate speech was prohibited under the law and would be prosecuted, the delegation stressed, while the police was developing new ways to go online to engage those spreading hatred.
In November 2015, the Government had adopted the political declaration against hate speech and the 2016-2020 strategy to combat hate speech which contained 23 measures in areas including education, children, media and knowledge. A website on hate speech launched in 2017 contained information about the work of authorities against hate speech and provided advice to victims of hate speech. Internationally, Norway was actively cooperating with Nordic countries, the delegate said, underlining that the topic of hate speech had been on the Nordic agenda since 2015. The State supported the European Union strategy for gender equality, which was one of the frameworks through which hate speech was being addressed, and had supported the setting up of the Human Rights Trust Fund in 2008 which supported States to fulfil their reporting obligations towards the Council of Europe.
The prosecution of hate crimes, including hate utterances, was a priority in Norway, another delegate underlined. Police had guidelines for registering hate crimes in the police criminal case registration system, containing clear provisions on the legislative framework and the definition of acts that constituted hate crimes. Since April 2018, the police had started registering anti-Semitic hate crimes, thus implementing a commitment from the national action plan against anti-Semitism April 2018. A total of 481 hate crimes motivated by anti-Semitism had been registered in 2017, representing a 17 per cent increase compared to 2016. Work was in progress to find a technical solution to registering hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as per the national strategy on the subject. In 2017, the police had registered 549 racially motivated hate crimes.
DEBRA was a permanent national education programme funded by the Government, which provided training and education on anti-Semitism, group-based discrimination, racism, hate speech and violent extremism. It had a website which provided free advice and resources to schools and students all over the country. Responding to concerns Experts raised about the absence of the history of World War Two, the Holocaust and genocide from school curricula, the delegate explained that Norway had successfully shifted from general curriculum to competence goals, whereby there was no prescribed list of authors or historical events; teachers interpreted the competence goals and decided on historical events to teach.
Access to education and employment was key for integration and social inclusion, and the Government placed importance on work inclusion for all citizens of Norway, regardless of their race, gender, religion or ethnicity, a delegate stressed. The Government had set up a joint volunteering effort for including immigrants in the society, and was working on launching a pilot scheme with anonymous job applications within civil service to respond to discrimination in recruitment. The development of the national action plan against discrimination based on ethnicity, race, or religion was ongoing, while the national integration strategy, which aimed to increase the number of immigrants in work, had been launched.
The new Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act, which had entered into force on 1 January 2018, strengthened the activity duty and made it more specific. It applied to all employers, regardless of size; for public employers and private employers with more than 50 employees, the activity duty was rendered specific, in the form of a four-step procedure, which would make it easier for employers to understand what the duty entailed. Enforcement in discrimination cases would be strengthened and streamlined, and the new anti-discrimination tribunal would be authorized to award damages in employment cases.
Among the measures taken to include more immigrants in the labour market, the delegation acknowledged that labour outcomes differed across the groups, which was evident in unemployment rates which stood at 5.5 per cent for immigrants versus 1.7 per cent for the majority population, which could lead to segregation and immigrants becoming outsiders. The Government was well aware that the most important measures of social integration for refugees and immigrants was access to education and employment and had proposed in its next period budget an allocation of 16 million Norwegian kroner to strengthen the competence of those teaching Norwegian to immigrants. The Job and Opportunity Programme aimed to increase employment rates among immigrants who lacked basic skills and were not receiving any other social benefits. One of the groups it targeted was women with immigrant background outside the labour market who were not receiving benefits nor were participating in any other employment support programmes.
The Police University College placed a priority on increasing the percentage of students from minority backgrounds and had developed a broad-ranging recruitment process aimed to increase diversity in policing. At first, the police had adopted recruitment quota for minority students, which had been dropped in 2012 following a lot of criticism from both sides. Instead, other measures had been adopted, such as swimming classes for prospective students, which was important because swimming was not common among certain minority groups; changing the general test to ensure that it was free from cultural influences and bias of the majority; and adopting a range of specific steps to reach out to parents who often played a major role in their children’s career choice, such as multi-lingual teams that visited mosques or cultural centres and talked to parents in their own language.
On education and employment of national minorities, the delegation said that national policies on the issue were neutral and needs-based. There were around 700 Roma, who resided mainly in the capital. On 8 April 2015, Norway’s Prime Minister had apologized to Norway’s Roma for discrimination before and after World War Two. The Prime Minister had also promised some form of collective reparation, which after consultation had taken form of the Roma Cultural Centre. This year, the Government had allocated 10 million Norwegian kroner to fund the activities, which included mediator services, after school activities for Roma children, and a meeting place for Roma and others to get to know each other. The Oslo Municipality had allocated funds to support Roma parents and children to navigate the education system, and this programme was very successful.
In response to questions raised on the national legal framework, the delegation explained that the Human Rights Act 1999 differentiated between the main human rights conventions, which it incorporated in the national legislation, and other conventions which addressed specific human rights or the rights of certain groups. Norway had since decided to incorporate the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was of the opinion that incorporating the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination would increase difficulty in differentiating between the conventions.
Norway had been considering on several occasions a ban on racist organizations, and every time had concluded that it would be a violation of the right to freedom of assembly and would not be productive; instead, Norway preferred to prosecute criminal acts committed by individuals.
Norway agreed that more information on ethnic minorities could be useful in adopting more targeted policies, however, due to historical reasons, collecting more detailed ethnic data was a very sensitive issue. Statistics Norway produced information on the situation of immigrants and ethnic minorities, and was planning to publish by the end of summer 2019 a report on ethnic discrimination; it would not provide statistics on the ethnic composition of the country, but would focus on attitudes towards ethnic minorities by the majority population, and the minorities’ living conditions. Norway firmly believed that the information it possessed, and the dedicated research enabled it to develop solid, knowledge-based policies and targeted action in the areas needed to address racial discrimination in the country.
Turning to the changes in the Nationality Act, the delegate said that an amendment allowing dual citizenship was being voted on in Parliament today, 6 December, and was expected to pass. Other changes in this law, which would take effect on 1 January 2019, would allow the stripping of nationality for Norwegian citizens who committed acts of terrorism; the revoking of nationality would be decided by a court, on a case by case basis, and would not apply on children or if the individuals would be left stateless
Questions by Committee Experts
KEIKO KO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Norway, asked the delegation to inform on the activities of the judiciary in the implementation of the Convention, and a specific training provided to judges on racial discrimination and the rules of the Sami people, which were customary and mainly not written down. What was being done to increase the proportion of minorities among the judges?
An Expert raised concern about the approach to education based on teachers’ personal interpretation of competence goals, stressing that teaching the contemporary history of Europe, the Holocaust and genocide was very pertinent, given the state of the world today, while another Expert asked how the power of education could be harnessed in the fight against discrimination against people of African descent, and guard against anti-Semitism, racism and slavery.
Replies by the Delegation
Responding, the delegation acknowledged that many Sami laws and rules, especially those governing ownership, were customary and not written down. Those rules were recognized by the judiciary, as evidenced by the case of the Black Forest, whereby the court had recognized Sami ownership based on custom, traditions and historic possession. The traditional customs could be pleaded in court, as any other law of the country.
The Ministry of Education was aware of the importance of early action in reducing school dropouts of immigrant children and was proposing wide-ranging measures in a new report to Parliament. Girls with immigrant backgrounds often chose professions such as medicine or law, and not so often government service, the delegate explained. Students learned about the Holocaust at different levels through history and science, as well as through school trips to places such as Auschwitz. This and other tragic historic events were adequately addressed in schools, and equality and non-discrimination were the basis of Norwegian education. The health legislation distinguished between permanent residents and others, another delegate explained, adding that everyone was entitled to emergency health care.
The new Integration Strategy made it very clear that diversity was a resource for working life in Norway, and it was so for all immigrants, including for people of African descent. Education and competence were very strong elements of social integration of immigrants, and that was what the strategy focused on. In 2017, it was children of immigrant background who performed best at upper secondary levels, and immigrant children enjoyed better employment outcomes than their parents.
Female genital mutilation was prohibited by law. A new national action plan against forced marriage, female genital mutilation and negative social control had been launched in 2017, which included measures to strengthen legal protection for individuals and enhance protection measures, including research and information sharing, working together with civil society organizations working on the issue to understand how to talk to parents, and the development of a database on harmful practices. The national health services did not force anyone in any medical examination, including in relation to female genital mutilation. Health personnel had an obligation to inform the authorities about any case where a child was at risk of female genital mutilation, similar to their reporting obligation in regard to child abuse.
Questions by Committee Experts
In the next round of questions, Committee Experts recognized Norway’s strong commitment to address hateful boasting and hate speech and remarked that sentences for hate speech did not seem to match the seriousness of the offence; in one of the cases mentioned, the offender had received 16 days of imprisonment, and in another the sentence was 18 days suspended imprisonment and a monetary fine. Could the delegation inform on how the courts were dealing with high-profile cases of hate speech?
The Experts were impressed by policies and approaches to address racial discrimination and urged Norway to become a leader in tackling racial profiling and use positively biometric and facial recognition methods or policies on cybersecurity. Racism and racial discrimination were factors that often came into play in terms of access to employment, particularly for people of African descent, and this was another area that needed attention. Welcoming the Stop Hate Speech campaign, they asked how its success was being measured, and urged Norway to support the efforts to draft the United Nations declaration on the promotion and protection of human rights of people of African descent.
An Expert asked the delegation to justify and explain the practice of giving unaccompanied minor asylum seekers a temporary stay permit, and then sending them to their countries when they turned 18. For example, Afghani 18 years old were sent back regardless of where in the country they hailed from, often without the support of the family. Commenting on a large number of adoptees from other countries, the Expert asked about their integration into the mainstream society and about racism and racial discrimination against them.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that many of the measures in the newly adopted anti-discrimination action plan focused on schools and teaching children the values of equality and non-discrimination. It also contained measures to acquire more knowledge about anti-Semitism through research, learn more about societal attitudes, and fight the phenomenon.
As for the higher unemployment rate among people of African descent, the delegation acknowledged that it was also attributed to racism and racial discrimination. There was evidence about racial discrimination against immigrants and that was why the Government was developing new plan of action against racism and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and religion, which would be submitted in autumn 2019 and would contain important measures to combat discrimination in employment.
The delegation agreed that the two prosecutions for hate speech were “small fry” and “not major players”. The approach by police and prosecution varied from one district to another, a delegate said, noting that addressing hate speech was a Government priority. The Stop Hate Speech campaign was a Council of Europe campaign, a delegate said, noting that in Norway it had boosted the engagement of young people.
With regard to time-limited residence permits for unaccompanied minors, the delegation expressed concern about the number of children seeking international protection in recent years, and said that this measure aimed to protect unaccompanied children aged 16 to 18 who did not meet the criteria for international protection. The Norwegian Parliament had decided in November 2017 that some unaccompanied children who had reached the age of 18 should be given more time to have their cases reconsidered. An amendment to immigration regulations in February 2018 provided that such persons could submit an application for reconsideration, both from Norway and abroad; to date, 128 applications had been received, all of them from Afghanistan; 77 had been granted residence permit on humanitarian grounds, two had been granted international protection, and about 30 cases had not yet been processed. The legal provision governing time-limited residence permits had been recently amended, giving more weight to social and humanitarian circumstances in home countries when determining status.
In general, adoptees were smoothly integrated in Norway, however, there were possibilities of them experiencing racism and racial discrimination based on the colour of their skin. This group, like any other group, was protected by anti-discrimination laws and policies.
KEIKO KO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Norway, concluded by noting that many countries looked up to Norway, whose ideas, attitudes and approaches had an international impact.
TOM ERLEND SKAUG, State Secretary at the Ministry of Children and Equality of Norway, in his concluding remarks reiterated the full commitment of Norway to human rights and the equality of all, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion. The Convention was a basis for the legislation and policies aiming to fight racism and racial discrimination, Mr. Skaug said, thanking civil society organizations from Norway whose alternate reports had provided the Committee with a more complete picture of the situation in the country.
NOUREDDINE AMIR, Committee Chairperson, concluded by thanking the delegation and wishing it a safe return home.
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