Norway’s Immigration Minister has been ridiculed after floating in the Mediterranean to see “what it feels like to be a refugee”.
Sylvi Listhaug donned an orange survival suit while in a boat off the island of Lesbos before jumping into the sea for a couple of minutes. She was then “rescued” by the ship’s crew.
She told broadcaster NTB: “You can’t put yourself into the same situation as the refugees but you can see it from that perspective [and experience] how it is to be in the water that way.”
She did admit, however, that migrants “don’t have a survival suit, so it’s not comparable”.
The stunt backfired, however, after she was widely mocked on social media.
Opposition politician Karin Andersen took to Twitter suggesting the minister may like to open a window to experience what it is like to be homeless.
— Karin Andersen (@SV_Karin) April 20, 2016
Others suggested she could close her eyes to see what’s like to be blind, or sit in a chair for five minutes to show solidarity with people who are paralysed.
— Kolbjørn H. Larssen (@krealab) April 20, 2016
Ms Listhaug defended her actions, however, telling TV2: “I spoke with the crew, who told me horrible stories. They are heroes who have saved over 3,000 people. When I was asked to see how they operate, of course I said yes. It would have been completely rude not to have done it.”
Sylvi Listhaug was appointed Norway’s first ever Immigration Minister in November 2015 as the migrant crisis deepened in Europe. She is a member of the centre-right Progress Party, which has traditionally opposed mass immigration.
Upon her appointment, she commented: “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.”
She later claimed that Jesus would back a tougher migrant policy after the Church of Norway attacked cuts to foreign aid.
“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.