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There has been immigration to Norway for as long as the Norwegian state has existed. Some came her involuntarily, for example as Irish slaves in the early Middle Ages. Most came voluntarily, however – for example priests from England around AD 1000, German merchants from the 12th century onwards, then Scottish and Dutch merchants, Danish noblemen and government officials up until 1814, Finnish farmers (called kvener) who migrated to the counties of Troms and Finnmark, and, not least, many Swedish labour migrants from roughly 1750 until 1920.

The number of immigrants was not very high before 1900, and immigrants made up much less than one per cent of the population for a long time. But immigrants came to play a more important role in some parts of the country, for example Swedes in Østfold and Finns in Finnmark. From 1970, immigrants comprised labour migrants and specialists, people taking an education, refugees and asylum seekers, and members of immigrants and Norwegian nationals' families.  In 2011, there were people from 215 different countries living in Norway. Together with the first generation to be born in Norway, they amount to 12.2 per cent of the population.

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