Norway’s Prime Minister has appointed a politician from the anti-mass migration Progress Party as the country’s first ever immigration minister.
In a reshuffle of her cabinet this week, Prime Minister Erna Solberg appointed Sylvi Listhaug to the new post in a bid to toughen her country’s asylum policy.
The Local reports that upon her appointment, Ms Listhaug said: “Our society is not sustainable if too many people are living on public payouts rather than paying in. We must bring down the number coming into Norway.
“This is about our ability to integrate those who come. If the number flowing into Norway is extremely big, that means it will also be hard to integrate them.”
An estimated 35,000 have arrived in Norway this year, a number which, although a record for Norway, is still well below the 150,000 in neighbouring Sweden.
Ms Listhaug received global press attention last month when she said Jesus would support her party’s tough stance on immigration. She claimed that Jesus would support relieving the suffering of people where the highest number can be reached – such as in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon – rather than encouraging them to make a perilous journey across Europe.
“What Jesus cared about is you should help as many people as possible — and that’s not as many as possible in Norway,” she said.
Her comments came after the Church of Norway criticised the country’s government for cutting public funding for foreign aid. Ms Listhaug said she was “extremely upset” by the intervention, admitting she had even considered leaving the Church over it.
“What [the head of the Bishops’ Conference] is doing is throwing herself into a political debate, taking sides,” she said, “the Norwegian Church should be a church for everyone, but now I feel that it is politics and not Christianity which comes first.”
Norway is currently offering migrants up to $10,000 if they choose to go home to their country of origin. The number of migrants taking up the offer has more than doubled over the course of the year, with 230 families taking advantage of it last month.
Last month, it also took out ads in a major Afghan newspaper begging potential migrants to stay away.
“People from safe areas of Afghanistan or who have been granted residence in another country will have their application rejected and will be deported,” the ad said. “People from areas that are not considered safe may be returned to other parts of Afghanistan.”