Monthly Archives: February 2016

Norwegian Government Under the Illusion The Have the Strictest Assylum Policies in the EU-EEA?

The current Norwegian center-right government would like to boast the strictest Asylum laws and policies in Europe, which is simply not going to be true. The further right element  are running a double communication against on the one hand tacitly supporting racism, while on the other funding private companies to the hilt in contracts for asylum reception centers.
In fact Denmark, Hungary and of course the UK have stricter, less benevolent and more punitive asylum policies, but that is lost on the public. The mid to far left Socialist Leftist Party, “SV” are some of the few outright opponents åto the actual policies, while in fact the Labour Party and Centre Party who formed the previous government majority with support of SV, are actually by in large in support of the policies, if not of course the rhetoric in the media.
THe “Progress” Party FrP, are behind all the double communication – policy is one thing legally in respect of human rights, while the rhetoric is strongly anti immigrant. Overt racism is to the FrP Leadership, an understandable sign of the worrying of individuals. The UN Charter, and EU international on refugees and human rights are merely recommendations from other sources. They used to employ this double communication via their ‘rottweiler’ outlyer mavericks, but now they feel they can bring the race debate into the home of national democracy, and appease those learning to the far right enough that they will vote for them.

It is still hypocrisy. They are driving through the biggest injection of cheap labour ever into the country, and using private companies to house them, building capital fortunes for the few based on public spending. After this injection of labour, they will drive through typical Republican Neo  Liberal errosion ofages and negotiating rights for all workers. They claim they are bound into this spending on assylum seekers by the previous ‘blue eyed’ red-green government, but that is far from the truth. Behind the scenes many in the service sector and especially small businesses who support the Frp, the kind of Tory heartland here, want access to cheap, naive labour for menial service jobs rather than having to employ  the insolent, sick-leave prone candidates from the low skilled element of ethnic Norwegian youth of today.
They are quick to blame Labour for all ills in this circus of mass exodus from Islamic lands, as they are for several of the percieved malaises of Norwegian life. Youth unemployment in a time of negative unemployment- drop outs and lay abouts we call them in other western countries, here they are the poor doyen of the New Right, and all labour laws must be loosened to accomodate them into the labour market as temporary workers, a long with the growing false market for temporary skilled workers who will be bitterly affected by the proposed legal changes and damned to temping without mortgages for years on end.
The double communication continues at a march and Labour take a back seat, eat a little pop corn even, their leader goes in  long XC ski race. Policy at the end of the day will be almost a mirror image across the centre of the house of parliament here, with the blue and red majority across that divide of Høyre (traditional old style conservatives) and Arbeiderpartiet (Labour) will atone the worst intentions, and that is all they are, of the FrP.

 

here is of course a lot of concern about so many non western asylum seekers coming here, and that a good proportion do not have a right to protection and are just economic migrants. Language is a funny thing, and while David Cameron can label all and sundry as Migrants, to wash over those with right to assylum with refugee status, assylum seeker is a kind of double edged sword. You at once declare you are xenophobic and skeptical when you start to use the term loosely to cover all those who come as if none had the right to flee war and seek safe haven in countries who can afford to take a portion of those refugees.
Labour went into more or less media hiding by having a largely judicial and academic approach to questions, which grabbed no head lines. Small differences in opinion on the same, cross parliament agreed policy changes are taken as a sign of weakness and dissarray in Labour by the FrP. However the crisis is something which is being addressed by stronger national policies and border controls across EU-EEA, as well as a huge sum which will allegedly go to aid and infrastructure where they are. In the case of Syria this seems likely to be through that well known land of clemency and open government, Turkey as Putin advances the cause of Assad in northern Syria. Putin will no doubt revel in having a new ally in the middle east to look strong with and force a psycological wedge against western democracy in the region.
Perhaps the centre left want to let the dust settle, and realise all too well that they should never underestimate the xenohpobia of the masses, particularly in Norway which is a country of contradictory intentions. Internationally, there has been the association to the Nobel Peace Prize and neutrality under WWI and the outbreak of WWII. From these roots the young modern nation (independence only in 1905) grew as peace broker to the highlight of the “Oslo Agreement” on Palestine. Norway is seen by Liberal thinkers the world over as punching above its weight and carrying the Nobel Peace flame forward. Conservatives in Israel and other areas see them as bloody-minded, self – opinionated pains in the neck.
Norway is well known historically too for its seafarers and proud emigrant enclaves in the USA . Even as far as New Zealand and Chile they still march on constitution day, the 17th of May. However Norway has a much more insular population and opinionation amongst those who only travel for holiday. Indeed the whole of southern, sunny Europe and even further afield like Tunisia is referred to as “Holidays in the South”. In truth, as with many other countries, Little Norway, in the dreary suburbs and sparsely populated countryside, is quite inward looking and doesn’t often care much about what goes on elsewhere in the world and whatever is frankly not Norwegian.
Norway has for four decades now been both completely exposed to the world via the oil industry and the disposable income holiday obsession here, while also been largely insulated from some ‘economic realities’ such as the rich getting a heck of a lot more out of society than they put in. Bathed in crude oil, the country could invest in expanding its other sources of wealths Hyrdo power and aquaculture/harvest (fish farms and fishing to you and me) and even out unemployment dips from oil price slumps with injections of cash from the oil fund, officially the National Pension Fund – Domestic and International by component.
Racism with a small “r” seems to be rampant at the moment, but it is of course both xeno – and neo- phobia which after all is something any group of insulated people would feel when significant migration occurs. It is most undoubtedly a built in, genetic and cultural phenomenon that people who live as a more or less homogenous race and culture, feel threatened by people from other cultures with different appearance.
Economics, as with the Trump campaign, play a role in fanning the flames of small “r” racism, epitified by the call “help them where they are” , into outright discrimination. The Saudi engineered slump in oil prices means that around 30,000 direct oil industry jobs have evapourated and it is likely that up to 100 – 150,000 folk will lose their livelihoods if the price remains below 50 USD/ barrell, which it probably will for a while.

The Arabs are intent now on making oil their business again, as a Cosa Nostura, and pricing the expensive extraction fields out of the market. They want more power and influence on the world political table, and they are prepared to burn their savings to balance their own extravagant national budgets and state investment plans for another year at least. Their production costs on some oil fields can be as little as 12 dollars, perhaps on average 18 USD. THe very cheapest oil from the British Sector is perhaps also a daily in production cost of around that 18 dollar, but has far higher life cycle costs.
Norway is far from in a “perfect storm” with the ill winds of migration on the one side, and the cold freeze of $30/ barrell on the other.

WIth Sweden, FInland and Denmark also stramming in their borders, and a new agreement with Russia, Norway will become as isolated as the UK is from the masses of migrants and be able to offer the direct route from camps as a kind of lottery ticket people will languish in turkish tent cities for. But why have so many refugees proportionally to population come to Norway?
It can be contested that Norway offers the best social welfare system for those not wanting to work, but in fact many asylum seekers know little of the supposed allure of unemployment and faked sick benefits compared to 30, 000 young people in Norway who are basically high school drop outs who cant or wont hold down a job. Norway and Sweden have both been involved in the Palestinian refugee crisis and negotations around the Holy Land. So that is one high profile, pro non Christian peoples branding which they have. Also there are trail blazers these days who report back dutifully on safe havens with a comfortable existence via SMS and Social Media. Even war torn cities near Damscus stil have mobile internet networks.

I happen to work voluntarily with asylum seekers and those who have been granted long term asylum here in Norway. Some have told me that Norway is known as a safe land, and it is as far away as they can get on foot from Assad. Others heard there was good work here, and you can start from nothing and work your way up to being wealthy. All seem keen to get into a job, and would rather learn Norwegian at night school while doing some menial job during the day than going through the slow paced ‘introduction programme’. Syria is a special case because it is in fact a multi religion, secular society where women often achieve high education and status in society. There is a more traditional housewife consensus amongst many once they marry, but that is little different to the gender pattern out in the woodland and farmlands of inner Norway.

Afgani’s are problematic because they have learnt in the last 30 years a very poor opinion of women’s place in society and it is largely young men and teenagers who arrive in far flung Norway, via Sweden. Almost none speak English as a go-between language and they are often poorly dressed and look a bit shabby. Anyone working with young assylum seekers will tell you the teenage boys are the biggest handful in the assessment waiting centres, and a tiny minority of them turn to knife violence to try and settle arguments over money, cigarrettes or the pool table with Syrians and other nationals who can speak an arabic language.
Afganis and Somalians now will probably be the focus on blocking further access to Northern Europe because both countries have large safe zones which can accomodate all but particular religious and politically displaced people. Somalians with assylum granted are even taking holidays “at home” in Somalia. It is also possible that the conflicts in Eritrea will come to some safe zone resolution or that economic migrants be sent back when they are shown to be from peaceful areas and not in opposition to the government. The real crisis and perhaps a long term wound will be the war and Assad backlash in Syria, now that Putin is in bed with Assad militarily. In this IS become a side show with both the west and Putin keen on disrupting them now and dismantelling them soon, with a western incursion in Libya likely.
All in all there is actually consensus in Norway and several other countries that we cannot go on following the UN Refugee guidelines blindly, nor an we allow assylum seekers to pick and choose the country they most want to end up in which is against the UN and EU-EEA mandate. The biggest issue here is one which the EU were warned of from the day the Schengen agreement came into practice- that external ‘Federal’ borders are great, as long as they are policed by a strong Federal presence.

This has been completely ignored, with the poorest countries and most exposed land falls being a magnet for migrants. Africans saying they are Syrians just to get on through Greece, Bulgaria and Hungary and further on to their goal of the UK, Germany or Scandinavia.
Into all this comes of course the resurgence of both the nastier side of nationalism across Europe, and ‘soveregnism’ as we see in Denmark, Norway, FInnland, Sweden, Hungary and the UK. The latter has a not so insignificant referendum as soon as June perhaps, which will suit seemingly both sides in the rush to see who can create more fear of job losses and even reverse migration camps as the struggeling David Cameron faltered over this week, his intellect for once succumbed to a junior spin doctor on crystal meth’ it seems.
The UK referendum and the national policies on immigration will set the new agenda for the future of the EU, which is now on the one side looking tarnished from the Liberal and socialists’ vision of a United States of Europe, while the ‘centre’ right christian democrats are seeing the sour fruit of privatisation to multinationals of once adequate public services which fed money back into the economy via living wages for staff and cheapness at point of access for the masses.

Now the New Right look less like liberal in meaning and more like creating a new international meta governance to exploit the masses of workers who don’t have the latest, greatest skills. The left is in dissarray over being too nice to asylum seekers and even internal work migrants, while the right is being seen as feeding the meta democratic beasts of Brussels and organised international capitalism.
In Little Norway there will be far more brown faces “dooking up” around the small towns and suburbs to come. There will be heart warming stories of the hardest cynic anti immigration Norwegians becoming voluntary workers who show Christian compassion to assylum seekers, just as much as there wil be unruly, disrespectful young males who sexually assualt norwegian girls and women. Many will take a road to Damascus in the years to come.

Advertisements

An Uncle to Be Remembered

My dear old uncle Gordon slept in not to awake in this world yesterday, almost reaching his 94th birthday which would have been in May. Gently he slipped off this mortal coil after his long and eventful life.

Gordon Melvin was christened in fact John Gordon Melvin if I am informed or remember correctly from a distant discussion with my mother.   As with some families people took to using Gordon for him and Lawrie for his brother, my dad, who was Leonard Ross Lawrence Melvin. Their grand mother had been married to a Lawrence, a well standing family with a chandelry and manufacturing business in Glasgow, later to become Simpson Lawrence. Her Lawrence husband died young and she married a Mr. Melvin, who was by family accounts a jewler with an unsuccessful business on Union Street in Aberdeen in the late victorian age.

That side of the Lawrence family became accordingly relatively poor at the turn of the century, and one of their sons ended up living with his new wife in a small cottage on the edge of the fairways at Beildside in Aberdeenshire during or just after world war I where their first son, my father, was born in 1919. Gordon was then born in 1923.

The boys played together and got up to mischief along the river Dee including spinning for trout and salmon when the bailiff was having his ‘tea’. Once they took their jack russel with them and the collar, an important and not insubstantial investment in your canine then, whipped off in a tustle and ended up in the river. One of the boys was either spinning at the time, or cast quickly and managed to hook the collar !  That was the earliest memory I remember my father talking about. Oh, and a picnic as a boy when he had lain on his stomach to arise with terrible tummy ache, he told me as a word of warning as to my posture at an alfresco lunch.

Picnic-ing was raised to a high status in both sides of my family, as an outdoors feast and highlight of any summer weekend or mid holiday outing. Uncle Gordon was certainly a proponent of the travelling and consuming of sandwiches, tea and boiled eggs. He was also a military man, and rather too keen on getting up at 6am, the middle of the night as far as myself and my father where concerned when on holiday.

Gordon and Lawrie moved in the 1930s to Helensburgh as teenagers at some point. Gordon was reprimanded at school for what would become a life long passion, betting and running a book. I don’t know if they attended Hermitage Academy but I would guess so. Lawrie took an apprenticeship as a draughtsman at the famous John Browns Shipyard in about 1935, when work on the great Queen Mary, Hull #552 was making progress. He then worked on the first Queen Elizabeth, the largest riveted ship ever built, before making a drastic change of plans along with his Brother Gordon. They enlisted for war. Presumably Gordon was not yet an apprentice or had already joined the merchant navy and been commandeered. He would begin his life long connection to Lincolnshire by a posting to minesweepers on the river Humber out of Grimsby and Hull. My father took an equally dangerous mission as it would turn out, with the Royal Engineers with the British Expeditionary Force which was of course repelled with the capitulation of France. Casualties were not enormous because the retreat was organised, but my father was captured inland of Calais, on his way to Dunkirk, having been shelled and abandoning his lorry load of ammuninition. He was at this point also injured by shrapnel, which apparently plagued his bowels in life thereafter.

 

Gordon swept the river mainly and some of the channels out in the somewhat shallow North Sea off the major fishing and military river. “Gerry” as he always called the German Wahrmacht Forces, developed fiendish mines which went off with magnatic fuses and then later pressure and vibration fuses. Ships were mysterioulsy degoused by electromagnetic currents from cables under rivers and harbour entrances, so new mines were developed to get around this avoidance technique. Gerry would drop the most advanced mines from planes pretty accurately into the Humber. Not once but twice Gordon said that the following sweeper was consumed by a mine presumably set off by his own converted trawler in the lead, with the fuse designed to detonate midships or under the stern of larger ships once the bow had passed over. ALl hands lost as the riveted vessels simply disintegrated. There but for the grace of god.

He also told me just last year how he was in the NAAFI in Hull waiting for a train to a new billiteting or the like, playing billiards and having a pint with some girls from the hairdressers on the corner. The girls left and a few minutes later the siren went too late, a bombing raid was underway and they hid themselves under the snooker table. The nearest bomb hit the hairdresser salon, and the girls they had just been chatting up were amongst those bodies they helped to dig out of the rubble. As he was helping he glanced at his watch and had to leave the scene to catch his train. All very mysterioulsy matter of fact as perhaps was the british way then at least.

 

My mother claimns he aslo was on the artic convoys to Murmansk, but he never talked of that. At the end of the war he joined the fire brigade and I believe he was posted to lincolnshire. He found out that the RAF fire service had better pay and conditions post war, and at some point left to this service. Also he met his first wife, Barbara in Lincoln.

 

Joining the RAF fire service certainly meant that his life would continue to brush with momemntus historic events and times. He was washing down for examplke, fall outr from RAF bombers flown throught the H bomb clouds on Christmas island in the 1950s, was posted to Singapore in the 1960s and worked at bomber command in High Wycombe before a final transfer to his last few years pre retirement to the Vulcan bomber base at RAF waddington retiring just before the Falklands war in about 1981- 2, when those same aircraft would perform their last action from Waddington. I remember seeing one take off from the train on a trip to Doncaster in 1981 / 82.

 

Retired life looked very promising for Gordon with a nice bungalow in Heighington ooutside Lincoln. Unfortunately his wife Barbara died quite suddenly in 1982. More on his future later.

My first memory of Uncle Gordon was on one of his regular summer holidays to Scotland in most likely 1971 or 72. I was tiny. The holiday included overnighting at Loch Gair of all places, and we arrived I remember at night in a thunderstorm. It was all a bit bewildering to me. New people, my cousin and her yuoung kids too perhaps there. Going somewhere late in the day. A thunderstorm. Playing on the beach the next day, I often thought of this mysterious part of my memory and it was only years later my mum told me it was Loch Gair, a place on loch Fyne I have passed dozens of times since.

 

My next memory of that side of the family was being given a kind of knitting and weaving set for my Christmas from Elanor who wasnt sure if Keith was a boy oir a girls name. Then there were his cars of course. He didnt invest a lot in cars, or much else Uncle Gordon. I don’t think he owned his semidetached in Monks Risborough either. Maybe he was a little too fond of the phillies. He certainly wasnt flash for a senior fireman and later in leadership in the 1970s. His cars were on the cheap and functional side, with him having I think I vaguely remember a Morris 1800 for the trip including loch gair, and then a god awful puke green coloured FIat. It was one of those which fiat sold the moulds to Russian Lada. Box like and outdated even by early 1970s standard, it was none the less quite a strudy car. I seem to remember meeting up with them as once again, an early memory, at the Cross Keys between helensburgh and Loch Lomond. They went on further with their dog ‘pouch’ and perhaps we followed later for a highland holiday.
Either side of that early memory is another early memory which I dont really connect Gordon to the image of, but was the first of several trips to the legendary Anderby Creek. This was the stuff of family folk lore for us in the 1970s, which seemed a happier, sunnier time all in all, highland holidays excluded. We had a renault with I believe a rear engine, a funny wee car. I remember most that dad connected the TV in the caravan to the battery to keep us entertained. I dont remember much else of that trip, probably 1972, but I was 6 when I remember going in one of our wonderful renault 16s we had.
Then we played on the beach all day, and went the walk back from Gibralter Point nature reserve all the way once. Skegness was there as a day trip too, along with Ingoldmells and its fabulous tackyness. I think we were there in both 1974 and the hot summer of 1976. The rubber boat called ‘diculous which young Andy Pandy, now a bloke in his mid forties like me, christened age 3 or 4. “its ‘ diculous that”.

The market day at Afford, and the vicars daughter I had been in p1 with when he had been  a Navy chaplain at Faslane. The ford at the village in the wolds. The long journey there and back on the M1, Scotch Corner and back to normality of Rhu.

I remember uncle Gordon well from those two holidays and things like the row boat tour on the lake, sans life jacket, and the ‘golden blanket award’ for who ever slept the longest. I was getting to lknow uncle Gordon as a wise and even tempered fellow, very different from my slightly neurotic and often distant father. He never hid the adult world of card playing, smoking and his beloved tobasco sauce from us. We were allowed to stay up to eight thirty I think, before being put down with one of those night light candles beside me – i was terrified of the dark and monsters behind the curtained cupboard or under the bed.

It began to seem like holidays either in Scottish Highlands or Anderby Creek would come every year for ever and ever, with Gordon as the patron of the whole fleet. THe holiday time El Capo del Familia.

Our next trip was that to the centre of the Scottish Highlands at Fort Augustus in what I suppose was 1977 because the summer was not a patch on the scorcher of all history 1976. It was a lovely holiday with day tours here and there, and long dog walks in the woods and along the caledonian canal. Despite the weather and the midges! We also went over to pick up dad from Loch Hourn, at which a strange crossing of lines occured which would reappear much, much later in Norway. Iain Macalister was crewing for my dad, and him and Nicky and perhaps Noney (Noel) Oddling probably remained on the boat while dad had some time in the Caravan up the Glen over the canal at Ft Augustus. I remember myu dad suddenly speaking a foriegn language to a neighbour from the caravan door, I presumed to be German from hsi five years at the pleasure of Adolf Hitler in Germany. It turned out to be his mother tongue, Doric.

The last holiday we had as a complete family was most likely Islay in one of the years 1978 to 1980. It too was  a lovely holiday with the usual excursions in our lower middle class charabangs, the Renault 16 and the Talbot Sunbeam…Islay dunlop cheese, the Bownore distillery, Port Charlotte,biscuits and cheese at the house outside Port Ellen and the warm waters with the whisky run off, probably the fine wines or other illegal stuff these days. Our favourite sport, the inverted Cornetto race, who could take the most time eating Walls’s newest delight. Soon his brother would be dead and his wife would follow not long after. Well, the seventies for me were a very happy time, a far off place where kids could have fun and the sun always shone at least most of the time.

 

Also there was the most famous joke in the family. We were nearing the end of the holidayt and Gordon, a later life Twitcher and RSPB member, was determined to spot a Cough, the migratory crow with the flagrant red legs and beak. I think I had my RSPB young ornithologists book with me which is a clue to the joke. We drove off dwon the rather desolate Mull of Oa on Islay, where coughs were known to flock. Gordon stormed off out with different visual apparatus to catch a glimpse, but returned after a good while from the wind blown point ’empty handed’. Dad, who had borrowed my book, asked his borther “what do these birds look like then, they dont have a red beak and legs with a black bodydo they” ….yes was the reply  ” oh, only one came and hopped on the bonnet of the car”. A second or two of disbelief passed before Gordon knew Lawrie was fooling with him.

We also had of course the famous October Week Tours to Monks Risborough and its clement autumn. Three years in a row mum took me alone to visit them, taking the train down on the Royal Scot no less to London and out again to Princes Risborough, with day tours to the grand museums of London. Walks in the woods to owith his every boysterous and not very nice springer spaniel, Whisky ( B&W you see) Years later I would revisit princes risborough when I worked for Leo Laboratories. How koind my mum was to take me. In fact it was not long after one of these excursions that dada died, the 29th October 1980.

After dad died I think Gordon and Barbara gave me a little bit of extra attention and I had one more, final childhood trip to Anderby and the area, with a tour to do some trainspotting at Doncaster as a nipper of 12 or 13 in 1981 before poor Barbara died suddenly.

1982 we tried a Highland holiday without the Capo Del Familia, with just mum and Aunty Margaret Brown. It wasnt a patch on the whole gang being there and I felt stifled by being with two middle aged ladies, no matter how nice they were with me. The house got burgled and we took off home early, somewhat to my horror and delight too.

1983 would mark a new and very happy coincidence that would enrich two quite lonely people’s mlives. The Capo del Familia was back on form and booked a holiday home on the hillside above Loch Broom near Ullapool. Wanting for company, my Mum invited one of her old ‘ Sea Rangers’ Eileen who was a kindly spinster, old before her  time,  with a kind of Scots Irish accent he had on account of her mother being from the emerald Isle.

Ullapool was a super holiday in many ways, despite the weather. The summer isles ….well you can usually see them very nicely from here. Un beknown to me it also kindled an unlikely romance and change of direction for Gordon and Eileen, who fell in love and started a very respectful courtship before Gordon finally moved back up to Scotland in I think 1984 for his second go at retirement with a second wife.  They lived pretty much happily ever after until Eileen became Ill and Gordon started going blind.

 

Last May I spent one of those all too infrequent, but very enjoyable afternoons with Uncle Gordon to offer my condolences and to just be with hime and his life and times. He told me of the hairdressers in Hull and we talked of the Cough leg pulling.  He faded away tghereafeter and agreed reluctantly to move to Lincoln to be in an old folks home. Yesterday he simply forgot to wake up and was left to his dreams of a long, interesting ang good life. RIP Gordon Melvin, 1923-2016.