Jørgen Lorentzen

Jørgen Lorentzen
Photo: Jørgen Lorentzen

What does the term refugee mean to you?

I see people forced to move away from their home because of war, conflict or poverty. No one wants to be a refugee, and who becomes a refugee is impossible to determine before the conflict or crisis is suddenly there. I can feel pity for the refugees one day and support them, the next day I myself can be the refugee.

Is flight from poverty less legitimate than flight from war or political oppression?

Poverty is almost always related to war, conflict or political oppression. Authoritarian regimes all over the world are feeding on poverty and misery, therefore creating democracies that respect their minorities is the most imperative way of reducing the number of refugees. Electoral democracies are no longer enough, they need to be real functional democracies respecting human rights and freedom of speech.

And what about flight as a result of environmental problems?

We haven’t even really seen the beginning of the refugees because of environmental catastrophes, but it will soon come. How will we as humans react to and meet millions of people escaping from drought, lack of water and hunger? I think this will be the largest ethical question in the near future.

When does one cease to be a refugee?

When one has established a new home, this can be reestablishing the original home or creating a new home far away from the original.

Is there a natural right to asylum?


If yes: is this right unconditional, or can it be forfeited?


Do you think that the number of refugees a society can absorb is limited?

People do set limits. Some people are extremely limited and do not want to accept any refugees, others have totally different ideas about what is a limit. A society can overcome and manage much more than most people think they can. In several countries the population growth is higher, and perhaps more troublesome than the number of refugees, but we can manage and accept that. What is the difference?

If yes: where do you draw the line, and why?

No line can be drawn. Drawing lines in the sand was the worst thing the imperialist nations did.

Are there privileged refugees in your country, i.e. refugees that are more welcome than others? If yes: why?

Yes, the privileged ones are the ones that fulfill the Law of Immigration and have a well-founded fear of persecution based on ethnicity, descent, religion or nationality. If they are only escaping from poverty then they will most likely be sent home.

Do refugees in your country receive fair treatment?

Yes, I believe so. A lot of resources and human energy is devoted to receiving and developing a fair treatment of all refugees.

Would cuts in the social security system in your country be acceptable to you if they were to facilitate the absorption of more refugees?

To relate the social security system to absorption of refugees I think is a failed question and discussion, and a debate created on the far right wing premises. There are larger threats to the social security system in Norway than refugees.

What are the requirements for successful integration?

- on the part of the refugees?
- on the part of the citizens of the host country?

For both: learning the language, education, work and respect for each other.

Do you know any refugees personally?


Do you actively support any refugees?


How will the refugee situation in your country develop

a) over the next two years?
b) over the next two decades?

I do not believe in any huge changes within the coming few years, but in the decades to come we will see big changes, also here in Norway.

Can you imagine a world without refugees?

I can imagine it, and I always do, but it is hard to believe it when we look at the growth of authoritarian regimes in the world, the unfair growth of wealth among a few and a growing inhuman and unequal capitalist system.

If yes: what does it take?

A competent welfare state, democracy and equality must be the basis of all nations.

Have you or your family ever been refugee?


Do you think you will ever be a one?

No, I do not think so, and if I will be I would seek refuge on Iceland.

How much “home” do you need?*

This is a very important question, because we all need a home where we feel safe and can relax and be ourselves. But a home can be a convent where you are living close to others with very few of your own possessions, it can be a tent and it can be a house. Gandhi’s home was a room in his friend’s house where he had his bed, some books and a few things. His work was with people all around, and only now and then did he need a home to return to.

*This question was taken from Max Frisch’s questionnaire concerning “heimat”.