Criminality as a Career Path – by Rita Karlsen


What is Norway up to?  The question can be put directly to the country’s Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, because in his New Year’s speech he placed particular emphasis on the fact that it will be work that will make the difference in securing Norway’s future.  Work, work, work – and now comes the news that criminal foreigners who serve more than a year in jail will henceforth automatically qualify for welfare.  After three years in prison, they will have a right to a government pension and to health coverage.  This will be the case even if they have come to Norway illegally.  In other words, it pays for foreigners to come to Norway and commit serious crimes – and the more serious the crime, the greater the reward.

The word ”shocking” is hardly sufficient.  Indeed, some news is so shocking that one hardly believes what one is hearing.  This new development falls under the category of things that you just can’t imagine a country’s leaders ever coming up with.  But I am not making this up.  You can read all about it on the website of the newspaper Aftenposten: in order to qualify for welfare, foreign criminals will have to commit crimes that are serious enough to put them behind bars for a year or more.  But if they are found guilty of even more serious offenses, so that they are sentenced to at least three years, they will also have the right to a basic government pension starting at age 67.

According to Aftenposten, a person who has spent three years in the can will receive a so-called 3/40 basic pension, which amounts to 455 kroner ($80) a month.  I assume this means that somebody who has served seven years will get a 7/40 basic pension, and so forth.  It is impossible to imagine a policy that would more clearly reward people for breaking the law.  And unfortunately, this isn’t all.  Because if the same criminal foreigners are citizens of countries belonging to the EU or the European Economic Area, such as Lithuania, Poland, or Bulgaria, they will also have a right to Norwegian pensions even if they have moved out of Norway.   We can thus expect that in the years to come, the Norwegian welfare system will find itself paying out considerable amounts in health and pension benefits to felons living abroad.

We can also expect that the Norwegian “goodness industry,” as I like to call it, will soon be telling us that this new policy is discriminatory: why shouldn’t criminals from countries outside the EU or EEA have the same rights as criminals from Europe?  For under Norwegian law, citizenship is not predicated on one’s land of birth: if a man is a Norwegian citizen, all of his children have the right to Norwegian citizenship as well, regardless of whether they are born in Norway, Lithuania, Pakistan, or Somalia, and regardless of whether their mother is wife #1 or wife #33.  As Human Rights Service has noted repeatedly, if this is called equality under the law, there is something wrong with the law.

There is also something wrong with a law that encourages people to pursue lives of crime, and that in fact amounts to a gilt-edged invitation to come to Norway to commit serious crime.  According to Aftenposten, we already have quite enough crime of this sort, thank you very much.  As of January 2010, 1,001 foreign citizens are in Norwegian prisons.  This amounts to 32 percent of all prisoners.  Seven out of ten of these foreigners, moreover, are serving terms more than a year long.

According to Aftenposten, the background to this story is that there have been several cases in which disagreement has arisen as to the rights of foreign prisoners.  For example, several of them have been denied hospital care in other than acute or emergency situations. Also, as recently as May of last year, the government stated, in the revised national budget, that a foreigner prisoner serving a sentence in Norway will not thereby earn the right to residency – and will thus not be entitled to welfare benefits.  But who protested the government’s decision?  Those who act more and more as if they are the real government of Norway – namely, the Norwegian civil service, the people who are supposed to administer the laws that the government is supposed to formulate.  As Aftenposten reports,

Afterwards the civil service protested to then Minister of Health and Care Services Bjarne Håkon Hanssen and argued that the Minister of Labor should cover the bills [for foreign criminals in Norway].  As a result, the government revisited the question of the status of foreign prisoners and offered a new interpretation of the National Insurance Law.

In an e-mail to Aftenposten, the Ministry of Labor wrote that “Serving a sentence in Norwegian prisons in accordance with a legally valid judicial order should not be regarded as illegal residence.  Persons with sentences of 12 months or more will therefore be regarded as members of the National Insurance Scheme under paragraph 2-1 of the National Insurance Law.”

Minister of Labor Hanne Bjurstrøm declines further comment on the matter.

Take a good look at that statement: A foreigner who is a prisoner in a Norwegian prison is not in Norway illegally. There are other ways to look at this situation – for example, a foreigner is a foreigner precisely because he didn’t have legal residency in Norway before he was imprisoned.  The foreigner is not only a foreigner, he is also a prisoner.  The individual who was in Norway illegally has done something illegal in Norway, and has thus become a foreign prisoner in a Norwegian prison.   And now that this individual is behind bars, after his case has been investigated and evaluated, and we have spent mountains of money to protect this condemned criminal’s rights – the conclusion by the civil service, and consequently by the government, is that this very same person should now be treated like a legal resident in Norway. There are other points that the civil service could make, for example that this same foreign prisoner has not been granted the right to higher education, so the conclusion must be that the prisoner – who is, after all, legally in Norway – should also have this right.  By the same logic, this foreign inmate should also have the right to family reunification with his wife, children, and parents.

Aftenposten reports, however, that the same prisoner won’t have a right to child benefits or cash support for his children, if those children do not live in Norway.  The same goes for social security benefits related to work.  But I’m not sure of this.  The welfare rules and regulations in Norway are anything but simple, but I have often observed that persons who are considered to be qualified to receive welfare benefits are thereby accorded a number of rights.  For example, I seem to recall that children of foreign nations who have Norwegian working permits have the right to cash support (even if the children are not in Norway) because earners of taxable income in Norway automatically qualify for welfare support.  I plan to look into this.

Fortunately, several politicians have reacted to the creativity of the civil service and the government’s approval of its machinations.  Both the Progress Party and the Conservative Party (two of the parties on the Norwegian “right”) have asked the government to rethink its decision:

“The new cabinet has to reverse itself on this one.  It cannot be the case that if foreigners do something criminal that leads to a long prison sentence, they will automatically qualify for welfare.”

“It is unprecedented and unacceptable to give welfare benefits to hardened criminals who come to Norway illegally and commit extremely serious acts of violence,” says Robert Eriksson (Progress Party), head of the Parliament’s Labor and Social Committee.

“It seems entirely unreasonable to reward criminals with welfare benefits.  We are talking about convicts who should be expelled from Norway, and who should be serving time in their own countries,” says the Conservative head of the Health and Care Committee, Bent Hoie.

Aftenposten concludes its report by mentioning that the government recently formed a so-called Welfare and Migration Committee under the leadership of Professor Grete Brochmann of the University of Oslo, which will examine the potential consequences of increased immigration for the Norwegian welfare and social security system.  ”Increased immigration” would seem, in any case, have taken on a new meaning.  Perhaps in the future we will see immigration statistics divided up into the categories of family reunification, asylum seekers, labor immigrants – and prisoner immigrants?

This article first appeared in Norwegian at the website of Human Rights Service,, and was translated into English by Bruce Bawer.

  • eerie Steve

    Rita has some good points. It is only a matter of time before the rise of the theoretical Moby Dick the Maelstrom Maker Criminal. Look at what Charles Ng did to the court room.

    Instead, they should be given detox and a straight jacket when they get in, and then put them in a laboratory somewhere on college campuses across America to “haze” people like Michael Moore.

  • jaafar

    Well, let's see. I could go to Norway and shoot the Prime Minister. They'd probably judge me insane and sentence me to seven years with good behavior. Then I could move to Tahiti and be set for life.

    You really can't make this stuff up!!

  • USMCSniper

    In the Republic of Congo, a surreal scenario is playing out: Two Norwegian citizens, Tjostolv Moland and Joshua French, have been jailed, apparently due to involvement in a murderscene in which an innocent cabdriver was killed. The Republic of Congo claims the Norwegians killed the driver over a money dispute – the Norwegians claims they were nothing more than witnesses to the crime, perpetrated by unknown gunmen in the middle of the jungle.

    In any event, the Republic of Congo is furious – and claims that the killing represents an attack on «the body and soul of Congo itself». And what does Congo think would be a good compenstation for such a hideous crime against the Conglonese people? According to the State Attorney of the Republic of Congo, a mere $500 BILLION dollars will suffice.

    Norwegian media is present at the military tribunal hearings, and reports that the demand was put forth today. The Conglonese State Attorney insists that the two backpackers are undercover Norwegian agents, backing up this brash claim by pointing out that the two Norwegians were in fact equipped with – gasp! – Norwegian drivers licenses at the time of their arrest. As such – Congo claims – the state of Norway is morally and economically responsible for any and all wrong-doings their citizens do abroad.

  • Willy Sutton

    Do they have plasma TVs and internet access in Norway's prisons? Are there banks near the airports?

  • asigottech

    455 kroner a month in Norway ? to put that in perspective a basic fast food meal costs over 50Kr it is not even possible to but basic food for a week with that let alone a month.

    Crime that means you starve to death does not sound like crime that pays as the article suggests, medical attention is a human right and nothing to do with it.

    In short get a grip I am sure that you have better stories to run then being outraged that ex-criminals, having served there time will be given enough money monthly to feed them for five or six days

  • John JJ Schmidt

    I can't believe I didn't follow up on this genius plan. Spend 3 years in prison, and live a life of opulent, $80/month luxury!

  • annoyed at you

    Doesn't seem all bad to me. If ex prisoners have some sort of support when they get out of prison, they will be much less likely to become repeat offenders.

    “I assume this means that somebody who has served seven years will get a 7/40 basic pension, and so forth. “

    You assume this, but you don't actually know that this is how the plan works. Do you have any documentation of this? Also, $80 a month on the 3/40 pension plan is far from enough to live on. It is not like this plan is giving ex prisoners a free ride. $80 a month is less than $3 a day, not even enough to buy food. So quit acting all outraged. Nothing here says the tax payers will be fully supporting ex cons.

    This plan is not an open invitation to come to Norway and commit crimes. Serving 1-3 years in jail in exchange for a small pension ($80 a month is only a tiny fraction of what it costs to live on, even for a single person, much less a family) and some socialized health coverage is hardly inviting criminals in to commit 'serious crimes'. Just out of curiosity, what sort of crimes get a 1-3 year sentence in Norway? I doubt that the really serious, harmful crimes like rape and murder are only punishable by 3 years in jail. It seems highly unlikely that Norway is going to suffer a wave of murderers and rapists looking for free health care.

    “Take a good look at that statement: A foreigner who is a prisoner in a Norwegian prison is not in Norway illegally.”

    Of course a foreign prisoner sentenced to prison by a judge is no longer in the country illegally! Duh! If a person enters a country illegally, then gets put in jail, they now have legal status; legal status as a prisoner. Otherwise, every person who works in the prison system as well as the judge who sentenced them to jail would be guilty of harboring an illegal alien. Just remember that granting a foreign prisoner some sort of legal status is not the same as granting them citizenship or a right to remain in the country after they are released from prison.

    This whole piece is nothing but fear mongering and right wing whaarrrgaarrble outrage. Author, in the future, please try apply logic and reason to your writing instead of spewing out trash like this.

  • andyFree

    Having fought the Nazis with astonishing courage (look up the bombing of the heavy water plant), the Norwegians are not going to allow this invasion to destroy their society.

    What would be really laughable is if they took any notice of a nation with the crime record of the US!

  • Christian Mathistad

    I am a norwegian, and I can proudly say that I did not vote for any of these morons.

    • Barbie

      That is a good thing for you my friend. And regarding this news, I think it was an insane law, making criminals to be eligible for welfare and pension after 3 yrs in prison. What's the point?

  • Guiseppe Lepew


  • TheLight

    The arguments seem valid. If you visit a foreign country on a VISA and are arrested for a crime, it is not your fault if you are detained until after your VISA expires. You did not willfully stay beyond the time limit on your VISA, the government forced you to stay so how can you can you be accused of being an illegal alien? If you are in prison, you are not subject to immigration control. If you are in prison, you can't be under immigration control because if you were, the immigration authorities could just deport you when your VISA expired and you wouldn't serve your full sentence. A prison sentence for a crime has to take precedence over being deported for overstaying your VISA or else you could murder someone in cold blood, spend a couple months in prison while your VISA runs out then be deported a free man. You may even be deported before your trial date if there is a long wait for the case to get to court. Technically, if there is a statutory period of time where you must be legally resident and not under immigration control that period could be served in prison and you would be eligible for citizenship after the statutory period expires because you would be legally resident while in government custody and not subject to immigration control.

  • coyote3

    “In short get a grip I am sure that you have better stories to run then being outraged that ex-criminals, having served there time will be given enough money monthly to feed them for five or six days.”

    Why? It is true that Norway can do whatever it wants internally. However, even if what you say is true, why would anyone logically give anyone, anything, just because they served a prison sentence. Human rights have nothing to do with it. I have the right to keep and bear arms, but, I have no right to require the government to provide me with a firearm.

  • coyote3

    You are confusing the legal definition of an illegal alien. Legal status for jurisidiction for committing a crime, does not remove the underlying, or even associated status as a criminal for being an illegal alien. I have put illegal aliens in this country for committing crimes, as well as for being illegal aliens. When their sentence was completed, they were deported.

  • coyote3

    Got news for you. In this country criminals are deported after they serve their sentence. They are still under “immigration control” if they enter this country illegally. Otherwise, they could avoid deportation by committing a crime. The issue was their status before they committed the crime. If they were illegal then, then they remain illegal. Please think, I did this enforcement for living.

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  • bondage

    Got news for you. In this country criminals are deported after they serve their sentence. They are still under "immigration control" if they enter this country illegally. Otherwise, they could avoid deportation by committing a crime. The issue was their status before they committed the crime. If they were illegal then, then they remain illegal. Please think, I did this enforcement for living.

  • Marius Mellingen

    Pensions and welfare for prisoners withouth any other connection to Norway other than criminal business will no longer receive welfare nor pensions. The government removed this scheme.

  • Sport Supplement

    crimes will finish people, so please the police do something and the politicians should come up with more serious rules

  • Aktiendepot

    When was it?

  • Hausversicherung

    In 2001!

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  • London Tours

    why this "A foreigner who is a prisoner in a Norwegian prison is not in Norway illegally."

  • micro console

    Depending on where you are from would determine those sorts of things for sure, different cultures have different morals.

  • The Credit Expert

    I agree it depends where you are from, some countries have a different culture and things like fraud etc arent viewed as very serious crimes

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