Norway is afraid to disclose the health threat posed by asylum seekers

Norway is afraid to disclose the health threat posed by asylum seekers
NORWAY: Health Minister Bent Høie refuses public access to a document relating to asylum seekers' health. The information may have "detrimental effects of a greater magnitude" if they become public, claims the Ministry.

A document on "various issues and challenges related to health associated with the increasing numbers of asylum arrivals to Norway," is kept secret by the Ministry of Health.

The information is apparently so harmful that it may affect the security of Norway and the defense of the country, according to a refusal to the Norwegian newspaper ABC Nyheter, this week.

The document is dated July 27, and is part of the correspondence between the Directorate of Health and the Ministry of Health (HOD) on asylum seekers.

The newspaper has been in contact with several key people in Norway's health sector. None of them have ever heard that fear of national security can justify secrecy of such information.

- It sounds crazy, says one, who does not want to be named.

In the rejection of the request for access to the document, HOD writes that the document is about "issues related to health associated with the increasing numbers of asylum arrivals. This is information that it is important stays confidential."

That documents are classified "Confidential" is in itself is very unusual for correspondence between health bureaucrats.

"It is likely that publication of the information in the document will lead to damaging effects on a wider scope for the security of Norway and the defense of the country", the refusal said.

When the influx of asylum seekers increased last fall, there was almost chaos in healthcare. The information from different agencies appeared uncoordinated, says a source.

And still no one has summarized the health of asylum seekers who came to Norway and were moved around to different locations in the country before any initial health check was carried out.

On Wednesday ABC Nyheter asked for a reconsideration of the rejection, to consider the need for secrecy against the public interest of transparency.

The ministry is basically required to make such an assessment of all requirements.

One of the purposes of Public Access and Freedom of Information Act is to provide transparency at an early stage in matters of vital public interest. Then the need for transparency outweighs the need for secrecy.

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