Whale Invasion

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In the last week there has been a whale invasion, humpbacks, orcas and dolphins, at Kvaløya in Tromsø.  The whales have been chasing big schools of herring into Kaldfjord.  Many people, especially fishermen have had a prime view of the whales.  National Geographic have offered payment to people to take pictures of the whale’s tails.  Apparently the patterns and the marks on their tails are unique identifiers, like fingerprints, and they can be used to track the whales as they travel around the world.

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On Nov 8, two herring fishermen spotted a pod of whales close by and so they stopped their engines.  They got a mighty surprise as the whales chased the school of fish under their boat – (they cameraman is laughing because he is nervous!):

On the same day a camera drone was getting an aerial view of the herring hunt in the fjord:

The whales were most welcome in the fjord because they were doing a great service for the fish farms.  The herring were taking up a lot of the oxygen in the water and therefore the fish in the farms had been suffering.  The whales eating the herring has solved the problem.

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Welcome Lights

Welcome lights are just that, candles placed out front of a door to welcome people in.  They are used during the dark season when it is cold, especially in places that have no sun, to let people know they are welcome to enter.  Even though welcome candles are pretty, they have an important function in Norway.  Because lights are left on all the time indoors during the dark season, it is difficult to know if shops are open as many have different closing times.  Commercial businesses use welcome candles to let people know they are open for business.  Private homes use them to tell people where a party is, to welcome visitors or to celebrate on special occasions such as Christmas and New Years.  The candles are placed in the snow so there is no risk of fire.

Today there are many types of welcome candles, here are the main ones:

 

Stoop candles

These welcome candles are the most common, especially used by commercial businesses.  They are placed on the stairs or on the corners of the stoop just outside.

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Lanterns

Welcome candles are also put into lanterns.  The lanterns sit on stairs, on corners or the stoop out front.  They are most common for private homes to use because they are more elegant than the stoop candles.  However, certain stores use these too to advertise that they are open for business.  Lanterns can be used inside and out for private homes and commercial businesses.   I have seen stores inside shopping centers use them, and then they serve as just welcome candles (as we know the whole shopping center is open for business).   Regular candles and tea lights can be used for the light and it is trendy to have two or several lanterns together.  Interestingly, I have never seen these lanterns hang, only sitting on floors or on tables.

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The picture above is a good example of how shops use them to encourage people to visit their store.  The store is inside the shopping center but they have placed a portable sign out on the walking street saying ‘open’.  It is a little hard to read in the dark (I took the picture above at 2pm in the afternoon) so the lantern is used as a second signifier that the store is open for business (meaning that someone that day took the time to light it letting people know they are now welcome to visit the store).

 

Spikes

Only for outside, these are candle holders that dig into the ground, well, snow, to hold up the candle.  Sometimes we get so much snow that a welcome candle sitting on a stoop will get buried in minutes.  Spike lights can be seen easily and can be placed where there is thick snow.  They make it easier for clean up too – they won’t freeze to the ground, like stoop candles, and you can find them.  With stoop candles you have to remember where you have put them otherwise a snow fall could cover them up and you’ll not be able to find the used containers again until the snow melts in spring.

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Welcome lights are used by all types of businesses – doctor’s surgeries, charities, car dealerships, banks, and the one above using welcome candles on spikes is a car battery store.  (Yes, Norwegian men appreciate being welcomed too!)

 

Baskets

Basket welcome lights are generally for inside as they are usually made out of wood, but I have seen a few outside on tables or on stones.  Because of the wicker, baskets have a glass cylinder for the candle to keep the wood from burning.

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Candle cages

It seems that candle cages are an outside alternative to basket cages, however, they wouldn’t go well in a windy area as they have no shielding.  I would think these welcome lights would be used to decorate outside tables and settings.  I have seen them used in gardens during summer and autumn, when people are having dinner outside.  You could possibly get robust candle cages for permanent outside use but the ones below would be brought indoors after their use is finished – the Norwegian winter would be too harsh for them to stay outside for too many days.

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Candelabras

Most candelabras use tea lights, as the one below.  They can be in the form of a traditional hanging structure, however, it is usual to see the candelabra style in other designs.  Cast iron is a typical material for any welcome light, which can be used both in and outdoors.  These types of welcome lights can be quite big and therefore sit on the floor at the entrance, and of course, smaller structures can sit on foyer tables.

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Torches

Welcome torch light produce bigger flames.  They are generally spiked into the ground or snow, not for holding, and are used for bigger events or businesses such as hotels, sports clubs and other outdoor group activities.  They are used when it is important to provide a little more light to show the way, or for safety.  Though, with such a big open flame they are put out of reach, like up a snow mound.

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The city shopping center has invested in some industrial size flame torches for outside their entrances.  Because the flames are so big and are at kiddie level, they have been covered with wire.  This is not necessary for most welcome lights.

 

Snow lanterns

These are home-made snowball igloos with a candle inside.  They are a fun activity for the kids and look beautiful in the winter snow.  They can be found in people’s yards.  The trick is to light the candle first and then build the snowball lantern around it.

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Hanging Hearts

The heart is one of three symbols of the Norwegian Christmas (the snowflake and star are the other two).  A hanging heart with a space for a tea light is an every day item.  When I first came to Norway I thought they were very special, but they are everywhere, at every Christmas and common throughout the whole dark season, inside and out.  The silver ones do look lovely with the tea lights hanging from porches.  They are also popular indoor ornaments and can be very delicate and elegant as the ones below.

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Indoor welcomes

Not all welcome lights are outside.  Most Norwegian houses have an entrance or foyer area, perfect for welcome lights.  Lanterns and candelabras are popular to use but I have seen many plate or tray welcome lights or decorations.

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Trays are dressed with several tea light holders and baubles, tinsel, nuts and flowers.  Natural decorations are favoured among Norwegians and so wood, bark, cones and moss are a regular feature of a Norwegian Christmas.

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Snøfnugg

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I’ve learnt that for me to learn Norwegian I need to know how to spell it.  I learn through visualization, which means I learn language very slowly.  But I have finally realized that that is ok.  As long as I’m continually learning the language is what matters most.

Snøfnugg has been a hard one.  It has only been the other week, since I got my 9 year-old dance kids to spell it out for me, that it has stuck.  We are performing to Frost (better known as ‘Frozen’ in English) for our juleforestilling (Christmas performance) and the kids are snøfnugg, or snowflakes.  This word is a little hard to get your tongue around, especially when you have to say it fast to cue little dancers, but seeing the word has made a great difference in pronouncing it.

The double consonant ‘g’ means the <u> is said with a short sound.  But this rule doesn’t apply to everything – the ‘fn’ doesn’t make the <ø> sound short because it is actually two words put together ‘snø’ and ‘fnugg’.  ‘Snø’ (snow) originally has no consonants at the end of the word and therefore the <ø> sound stays long.  ‘Fnugg’ is used only in two contexts – to describe a snow flake or a measurement of how much you have understood something – nothing – as in ‘I can’t understand one fnugg of this’.

The trick to Norwegian is knowing when a word is original or made up of two smaller words.  How can you tell?  Context usually, but I mostly have to be told.  I guess I’m going to have to learn every Norwegian word before I get it right!

But I must say, ‘snøfnugg’ is a very pretty word!

The Rights You Give Up for Asylum in Norway

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Every country has their own rules and regulations for asylum seekers.  Some countries also participate in international agreements such as the Dublin Procedure to help maintain the asylum seeker process.  Norway is no different.  In the land of peace and equality, seeking asylum isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card’.

Everyone has the right to seek asylum.  Not everyone has the right for their asylum claim to be granted.

If a claim is granted, the applicant gets Refugee Status.  According to the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR) a refugee is:

[A]ny person who: owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.

Applying for asylum means applying for TEMPORARY protection.  Being granted Refugee Status means being granted TEMPORARY protection.  Individuals can be returned back to their home country at anytime.  Norway seeks to return individuals as soon as its protection is no longer required. Individuals must keep reapplying for asylum after every three to five years, when their protection agreement expires, to continue Refugee Status.  Each time means there is a very good chance of being sent back to the home country.

Whenever a home country is deemed safe again, or the individual does not need any more protection, they will be sent back.  That is the deal made when seeking asylum and becoming a refugee.

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Being an asylum seeker and a refugee means the individual gives up their right to free movement.  They are required to stay in the country that they have sort asylum from.  They cannot move to another country and apply again for asylum.  If the individual has sort asylum in any other European country, Norway will refuse them entry and send them back to the country responsible for them.  This breech of agreement will likely go on their record, which can effect their claim.

If the individual seeks asylum in Norway first, Norway will claim responsibility of them and the individual gives up their free movement rights.  Norway will put them into a temporary transit reception centre for three to 10 days for health tests and questioning before moving them to another transit centre anywhere in the country.  While their asylum application is being processed they have to stay at the ordinary asylum reception centre.  These are usually in small, isolated, cities and are decentralized, meaning housing are usually scattered throughout the general population.

Health services and modest living expenses are covered by the National Insurance Scheme and there is mandatory schooling to learn Norwegian and general education if the individual has not completed general schooling in their home country.

Asylum seeker processing times can take years because Norway needs to confirm identities.  Every inch of an asylums seeker’s life must be investigated.  This can only be done through cooperation with other countries, which takes a great amount of time.  This means an asylum seeker can be in limbo for three to five years before their application is finally rejected.

An asylum seeker’s status is not allowed to change while an asylum seeker.  They are not allowed to get married and are not allowed to become a student.  They are also not allowed to change to a working visa.  However, a work permit may be granted only if there are no discrepancies in their application, but any employment is highly unlikely.

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Individuals who lie about who they are, or destroy identifying documents, greatly lower their chances of Refugee Status.  But if individuals don’t have identifying documents and are granted stay in Norway, they will never be able to leave Norway as no other Western country, at least, will allow them entry.  (I have personally witnessed this – a good handful of permanent residents I know have not been able to move to or study in other countries such as the UK or USA because they only have secondary Norwegian identity papers.)   One extreme case has been reported about one man who has been waiting for nearly 20 years living in an asylum camp on only NOK68 a day because he has no identity papers.  (Link to newspaper article below)

Any behavior that is seen as deceitful, aggressive, or illegal means detention and deportation.

If an asylum application is declined the individual is taken to a Return Centre to wait to be deported to their home country.  These centres are not nice because of the emotional state of the detainees.  They can even be dangerous as distraught detainees feel the need to destroy, and even burn down, the premises.

Norway is not afraid of deportation, even for children.  It is Norway’s right to send asylum individuals and families back to their home country when protection from Norway is no longer needed, if they turn out to be deceitful or commit crime.  Being an asylum seeker or a refugee, the individual agrees that Norway has the right to do this.

After years of waiting for notice, it can be heartbreaking to be denied, especially when a new life has been created by the individual in Norway.  Appeals are rarely won, but individuals have the right to appeal.

So remember, if you seek asylum in Norway you make a binding agreement with Norway – You agree to give up your free movement and do whatever, and go wherever/whenever, Norway sees fit, and Norway agrees to protect you, and provide for you, until the threat is over and you can return home to your country.

Some interesting reads and links about asylum seeking in Norway:

http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/asyl-debatten/yemane-teferi-54-har-vaert-20-aar-paa-asylmottak/a/10077059/
(In Norwegian)
English Translation – http://gettingtoyoutidende.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/20-years-in-asylum-centres/

http://www.udi.no/en/want-to-apply/protection-asylum/

http://www.regjeringen.no/upload/JD/Vedlegg/Faktaark/Migrasjonsmld_eng.pdf

http://www.nkvts.no/biblioteket/Publikasjoner/NorwegianReport2010_NordicStudyReceptionRefugeeChildren_final3.pdf

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/networks/european_migration_network/reports/docs/emn-studies/establishing-identity/28.norway_national_report_reception_march2014_final.pdf

http://www.noas.no/en/the-asylum-process-in-norway/

Very Heavy reading:
http://www.ipu.org/pdf/publications/refugee_en.pdf

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