A bishop of the Protestant Church of Norway has launched a proposal urging Christians to hire illegal migrants, a move that the minister of immigration called “irresponsible.”
Tor Berger Jørgensen, formerly the bishop of Sør-Hålogaland in northern Norway, sent out a series of letters last week to various Christian organizations requesting that they provide employment for those unable to work legally in Norway.
Although employing illegal immigrants is against the law, the bishop said that his campaign was about giving people “in a hopeless situation” the chance at a livelihood.
Jørgensen, who is also a well-known agitator for gay rights, said he has already received “several positive responses” from people who would like to help.
“I am quite optimistic that we can achieve something among church organizations and with church connections,” he said.
Jørgensen was inspired by learning that an evangelical church in Stavanger, Norway, had employed an Eritrean woman named Tita who had been living in the country illegally for 8 years, a move he called “brave” and “important.”
The bishop has reportedly requested a meeting with Immigration Minister Sylvi Listhaug (FRP), who has called the 71-year-old bishop’s proposal “irresponsible.”
“What he is in fact doing is creating false hopes for people who have to return to their homeland,” she said. “Individuals who have received a final rejection of their asylum application are obliged to return home.”
For his part, Jørgensen posted on Facebook that what the Minister calls illegal is really just “self-defense.”
“Sylvi Listhaug calls us irresponsible,” the bishop responded in a recent op-ed, “because we encourage people to do something illegal. But Listhaug doesn’t know what degrading and dehumanizing experiences many ‘undocumented’ have had over the years.”
According to current legislation, employers who hire illegal foreign workers are subject to fines or imprisonment.
Christian Wedler, a local leader for the Progress Party (FRP) in Stavanger, said that he understands the desire to help people who find themselves in a difficult situation, yet people must also consider “what is right for the country and the big picture.”
“If an asylum application has no consequences, then the system will collapse altogether and we are going to experience arrangements that ensure that the whole asylum system is in jeopardy,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter