- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2007

NORWAY

Immigrants favored for government jobs

OSLO — Norway will implement a two-year program that favors recruiting immigrants in government departments in an effort to lower their unemployment rate to that of Norwegians.

“When unemployment is three times higher among the immigrant population than in the rest of the population, this signifies that it is necessary to do more to put more immigrants in jobs,” Modernization and Administration Minister Heidi Grande Roeys said last week.

Twelve government offices will experiment with giving priority to equally qualified foreign-born job candidates instead of Norwegian ones. The two-year program is slated to start at the beginning of 2008.

Although in continuous decline for the past few years, the rate of unemployed first-generation immigrants was 5 percent during the second half of the year in Norway, a rate nearly three times higher than that of the total population.

NETHERLANDS

Red lights dim in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM — About a third of Amsterdam’s red-lit windows for prostitutes will disappear from the city center as one of the main brothel owners is set to sell his empire to a real estate company.

A housing company will buy 18 premises, currently featuring 51 windows, for about $35 million, Amsterdam city council said.

Last November, the city revoked the trading licenses of 33 brothels because they were suspected of criminal activities including money laundering and drug dealing. However, the brothel owners successfully appealed.

Tourism authorities acknowledge the 700-year-old red-light district — a maze of narrow alleys and canals lined with sex shops, prostitutes behind windows and marijuana-selling “coffee shops” — is as much of a draw as such other attractions such as the Van Gogh museum or the Anne Frank House.

Mayor Job Cohen said that he had no plans to rid Amsterdam of prostitution but that the concentration of sex in the city center was too high.

FINLAND

5 Americans seek political asylum

HELSINKI — Five U.S. citizens — two adults and three children — have claimed political asylum in Finland, border police said Thursday.

The group, thought to be from the same family, arrived in the country Tuesday. Finnish authorities refused to reveal the grounds for the asylum claim, but local press reports speculated it was opposition to the Iraq war.

A border control official said Finland regards the U.S. as a “safe country,” making it unlikely the case will be successful. In addition, the five arrived from another country within the Schengen free travel zone, rather than directly from the U.S. Under the travel zone rules, asylum seekers are required to file their case in the first country they reach.

Weekly Notes …

A Russian man was caught trying to use a metal cup to burrow under the border between Belarus and Poland, Belarus border guards said Tuesday. The 19-year-old Russian, who carried army rations, camouflage, maps and a textbook on survival, was trying to escape to EU member Poland. He would have had to tunnel about a half mile to get to Poland, a border official said. … Brides in Stockholm who want their fathers to walk them down the aisle are facing opposition from some pastors, who call the practice sexist. Couples who marry “are equal when it comes to finances, politics, values … but when they come to the church … the woman suddenly turns into a man’s property,” said Yvonne Hallin, a Lutheran Church vicar, noting that the custom of fathers walking their daughters down the aisle “is not a Swedish tradition. It has been imported from American and British films.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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