Denmark Is Ramping Up Anti-Immigrant Measures and Rhetoric

Good overview:

On a cold December night, Inger Stojberg stood in an overlit auditorium in Vordingborg, eastern Denmark, and explained why the Danish government had chosen nearby Lindholm Island for its new detention center for rejected asylum seekers. Although she made it clear from the outset that the government would not revoke the proposal (and sure enough, it was approved three days later) one citizen after the next tried to convince her it was a poor decision, drawing on everything from its impact on property values and tourism to what it would mean for locals’ safety. But many in the audience of more than 700 thought something even more important was at stake. “I came tonight because I don’t think this is a decent way to manage these people,” said Marianne Rasmussen, a teacher from the nearby town of Præsto. “It’s not who we Danes are.”

Immigration became a thorny political issue throughout Western Europe in the wake of a record influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa in 2015, but the split over Lindholm Island suggests the question has taken on unusual dimensions in Denmark. The prosperous Nordic country of 5.8 million stands out among its neighbors for its reluctance to integrate even comparatively small numbers of foreigners. It granted protection to 2,365 people in 2017, compared with Sweden’s nearly 28,000.

Despite a reputation for progressive politics, humanitarianism and a generous welfare state, Denmark has some of the most aggressive anti-immigrant policies in Europe. That has included taking out foreign-newspaper adverts warning potential migrants that they are not welcome, and authorizing police to seize cash and valuables from arriving asylum seekers to offset the cost of their maintenance. By pitting some of Denmark’s long-held values against others, the subject of immigration has not merely divided Denmark, but turned a demographic crisis into an existential one. What, these days, does it mean to be Danish?

Denmark received waves of guest workers from Turkey in the 1960s and ’70s, as well as refugees from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and today immigrants and their descendants make up 8.5% of the population—projected to rise to 13.1% by 2060. Yet to an extent virtually unmatched in Europe, “Danes are quite polarized over immigration,” says Nils Holtug, director of the Centre for Advanced Migration Studies at the University of Copenhagen. “There’s a large part of the population that is welcoming and positive toward immigrants, and another large group that’s worried about them and wants very restrictive policies.”

Many of the country’s recent immigration initiatives seem to operate from the same principle. In the past year, the center-right government has passed a so-called burqa ban, even though fewer than 0.1% of Muslim women in Denmark wear veils, and a law requiring parents in neighborhoods designated as “ghettos” to submit their children to extra schooling in “Danish values.” From January, new citizens are required to shake hands with the official conducting the naturalization ceremony, regardless of their beliefs about physical contact with members of the opposite sex—a law perceived as targeting conservative Muslims.

Danish journalist and historian Adam Holm describes the initiatives as “deliberately hostile.” In other areas, Danish legislators tend to speak in the measured language of jurisprudence. “But the intent here, and people will say it outright, is ‘yes, we are doing this to frighten people away from Denmark.’”

Stojberg, a member of the same Liberal Party as the Prime Minister (and which forms part of the conservative bloc in parliament), has adopted an almost gleeful attitude toward migration restrictions. She celebrated the passage of the 50th anti-immigration law with a cake, posting a photo on social media, and published an editorial in a national newspaper in which she suggested that Muslims bus drivers and hospital workers who fasted during Ramadan might pose a safety risk to Danish society.

Urging Støjberg to go even further is the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (DF), which is the second largest party in parliament but does not hold any ministerial positions out of its own choice. The DF proposed the Lindholm Island idea. “We want to reduce the number of all foreigners in Denmark, not just refugees and asylum seekers, but people who come to work or go to school,” says Martin Henriksen, DF’s spokesperson for immigration. “We also want to revoke more of the asylum permits already granted, and send more people home.”

Some see Lindholm Island and other measures as an attempt to appeal to voters ahead of elections in June. “The right-wing government now in power is behind in polls, and so they will want to do something to increase their support,” says Holtug. “And the Social Democrats are tired of losing because of immigration, so their response, increasingly, is to also adopt restrictive policies.”

That’s not the only way right and left are coming closer together. Unlike in the U.S., where anti-immigrant platforms tend to align with conservative opposition to a government-sponsored safety net, the populist DF, like the center-left Social Democrats, seeks to protect generous welfare benefits that include free education through university, universal health care and ample unemployment insurance. “There’s a growing part of the political spectrum that sees a welfare state and a multi-cultural society as directly incompatible, or at least difficult to have side by side,” Holtug says.

The DF’s Henriksen, who believes Trump’s policies on immigration are “too weak,” echoes Holtug’s point. “America is a country founded on migration, but Denmark is not. We’re a small country, and what binds us is a common language, and a common set of traditions and values. If we let in a large number of foreigners with their own cultures, ours will be overwhelmed.”

A degree of plain old xenophobia contributes to this sentiment. But so too does a growing sense, even among more progressive sectors, that the country’s efforts at integration have not worked. “We’ve been very lax in requiring foreigners to learn Danish,” says journalist Holm by way of example. “Ten years ago I would have never uttered those words. But now I say, yes, this is Denmark, so if you want to be part of this society, please learn Danish.”

Yet he is troubled by the harsh measures and rhetoric adopted by his government as well as the sometimes blatant xenophobia that has made its way into public discourse. Recently he published an opinion piece, titled “The Denmark I’ve Always Feared,” in which he lamented the country’s turn away from tolerance and openness. “Enough is enough,” he says of his reasons for writing it. “This is not the Denmark I was brought up to believe in.”

In reality, Denmark already is a multiethnic society, and will become only more so in the future. Younger generations of Danes seem more comfortable with this than their elders. At a Dec. 10 rally in front of Copenhagen’s city hall to protest the Lindholm plan, Selma Solkaer, a 15-year-old student from nearby Roskilde, expressed her dismay that Danes could support it. “It’s shocking, especially when Denmark has always been such a big supporter of human rights,” Solkaer said.

At the rally, Natasha al-Hariri, a legal consultant on immigration, recalled her parents—Palestinians who came to Denmark from Lebanon in 1989—-telling her how welcoming Danes were. “Back then, we took in refugees because we accepted that they needed help,” she said, noting that parts of Danish society now fear eventually being outnumbered by refugees. She finds the upcoming elections especially nerve-racking. “Lindholm Island may just be an electoral tactic so the government can show it’s tough on immigrants,” she says. “But that’s what scares me to death—the idea that that’s what Danish voters want.”

In Vordingborg, Mayor Mikael Smed doubts that’s the case. Less than 5% of the population of Vordingborg, with its broad shopping street and neat houses, is foreign-born—a mix of Turks, Iraqis, and Syrians, among others. But most residents of the town, he says, consider the Lindholm Island plan “madness,” especially because another facility for the same ‘tolerated stay’ population already exists. “ I keep asking but no one in the government can explain to me why we need it.”

Although like other members of the Social Democrat party Smed’s position has evolved so that he now supports limiting the number of asylum-seekers and refugees admitted to Denmark, he also sees plenty of examples of successful integration, from his son’s best friend, whose parents came from Iraq, to a local program that trains foreign-born women to teach new arrivals the ins and outs of Danish society. He also believes that the Danish economy—including the vaunted welfare state—needs an influx of workers if it is to continue to prosper in the future.

But in the end, he justifies his opposition to the Lindholm Island plan with his own appeal to national values. “I recognize the number is important when we have to work on integrating people, and making them as much a part of our society as possible,” Smed says. “But I don’t think that placing people on an island and making the conditions as bad as possible for them is a part of Danish nature.”

Source: Denmark Is Ramping Up Anti-Immigrant Measures and Rhetoric

Opposition Is Growing in Denmark Against an ‘Anti-Muslim’ Plan to Make New Citizens Shake Hands

Not surprising that this is coming from the municipal level, as has happened in the US with respect to Trump administration policies:

Resistance is mounting against a proposal by Denmark’s ruling right-wing coalition to require a handshake as part of a citizenship naturalization ceremony, a provision critics say deliberately targets Muslims, some of whom prefer to place a hand on their chest instead for religious reasons.

The Guardian reports that if the measure passes in parliament, several Danish mayors have vowed to ignore it.

“It’s absurd that the immigration minister thinks this is an important thing to spend time on,” Kasper Ejsing Olesen, the mayor of the central town of Kerteminde, told the Guardian. “Shaking hands does not show if you are integrated or not.”

According to a new poll published on Thursday, 52% of those surveyed disagree with the mandatory handshake rule, but the measure has gained traction among hardliners.

Several incidents involving Muslim migrants refusing handshakes have cropped up this year in Europe, according to the Guardian. An Algerian woman was denied citizenship in France this year for refusing to shake hands with male officials, a decision backed by the country’s highest court. A similar incident in Switzerland also cost a Muslim couple their citizenship last month, while a woman in Sweden won compensation after a prospective male employer broke off a job interview after she refused to shake his hand.

“A handshake is how we greet each other in Denmark,” said Inger Støjberg, the country’s immigration minister said this month. “It’s the way we show respect for each other in this country.”

The measure making handshakes mandatory is part of larger citizenship bill put forth by parliament, under which applicants pledge to uphold Danish values and “act respectfully towards representatives of the authorities.”

“The package includes a ceremony at which you make a statement of loyalty and shake hands,” said Naser Khader, conservative party spokesman, this month. “Some people would give their right arm for citizenship. I’m sure they’d also give their hand.”

Among other increasing hardline immigration policies, Denmark in January tightened its border to stem the inflow of migrants, and in June became the latest European country to ban burqas and niqabs.

Source: Opposition Is Growing in Denmark Against an ‘Anti-Muslim’ Plan to Make New Citizens Shake Hands

Mandatory handshake will make Danish citizenship three times as expensive

Hard to believe that this change would increase the cost of the ceremonies (handshake is a standard feature of Canadian citizenship ceremonies unless the new citizen prefers an alternate sign of respect):
A much-discussed proposal that would require new Danish citizenships to shake hands with their local mayor would also come with a tripling of the fee new Danes have to pay to receive their citizenship.
Forcing all citizenship applicants to participate in a ceremony in which they would have to shake hands with their mayor or another elected official would add so much administrative work that the citizenship fee would increase threefold, according to the wording of the proposal.
The fee would increase from the current 1,200 kroner to 3,600 kroner [USD 186 to USD 558, another high fee that IRCC can use to justify the high Canadian citizenship fee].
The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a driving force behind the handshake requirement, said it is perfectly reasonable to demand that people pay three times as much to become a Dane.
“When you consider that you are receiving the gift of Danish citizenship, I actually don’t think it’s that expensive. I think it is a tremendously large and valuable gift,” party spokesman Christian Langballe told news agency Ritzau.
As part of the government’s new rules on citizenship, participants at citizenship ceremonies will be required to shake hands with their local official. The proposal is largely seen as targeting Muslim who refuse to shake hands with members of the opposite sex.
“A handshake is how we greet each other in Denmark. It is the way we show respect for each other in this country. Therefore it is a completely natural part of such a ceremony,” Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg said last month.
Participants at the citizenship ceremonies are also required to sign a document promising to respect Danish values.
The proposed handshake is not necessarily a done deal, as the Social Democrats, who typically go along with the government’s immigration rules, have indicated that they do not support the mandatory handshake.
Party leader Mette Frederiksen said she believes that a handshake is important and “completely natural” but expressed concerns about writing it into law.
“The ceremony is what is important to me. If it turns out that there are problems with the handshake, then we should discuss legislation at that point,” she told broadcaster DR, adding that “we make too many laws in Denmark.”
Frederiksen said her party would not take a stance on the proposal until it makes it to parliament in its final form.
A number of mayors, including some from the ruling Venstre (Liberals) party, have spoken out against the proposal and indicated that they will not force new Danes to shake hands if they don’t want to.

Source: Mandatory handshake will make Danish citizenship three times as expensive

Danish left veering right on immigration

Another Nordic country struggling with integration:

Denmark’s right-wing government might once have expected pushback from the left-wing opposition when it introduced a controversial new integration policy.

No longer.

A recent government proposal, to be finalized by parliament in the fall, would target the country’s so-called ghetto neighborhoods with a series of sanctions and incentives. The intention is to bring immigrant communities fully into Danish society — by force if necessary.

Children living in the targeted areas would be compelled to attend day care for 25 hours a week, to ensure they learn the country’s language and values. Parents who take their kids back to their countries of origin for extended periods could face prison or deportation. Crimes committed in the neighborhoods would carry heavier sentences. Buildings would be demolished if necessary.

The last touches to the package are expected to be fully approved with a large parliamentary majority, including the enthusiastic support of the largest opposition party, the left-wing Danish Social Democrats.

“We tried to negotiate this to be, you might say more draconian,” said Mattias Tesfaye, the party’s spokesman on immigration and integration. “We think the government has been soft on this.”

Flanking on the right

Political parties across Europe are grappling with immigration policy. Concerns about new arrivals have helped propel far-right parties into government in Austria and Italy and elevated the xenophobic Alternative for Germany into its country’s largest opposition party.

The issue has posed a particular dilemma for Europe’s left-wing parties, which have suffered a wave of electoral defeats as political rivals accuse them of being responsible for untrammeled immigration. Some have shifted to an economic critique of migration due to wage competition, while others have doubled down on a defense of diversity and assistance for refugees.

The response of the Danish Social Democrats is an outlier: They have tried to outflank their competition by backing the government in a string of eye-catching bills on immigration and integration and demanding harder measures still.

Last year, the Social Democrats overhauled their party’s political agenda for only the seventh time in their 140-year history. The result, “Together for Denmark,” adopts much of the language of the anti-immigration right, including the term “parallel societies.” The policy describes these as places “where foreigners and their descendants live, isolated from the Danish community and with values that are not Danish” and calls them “unacceptable.”

In addition to throwing its support behind the ghetto plan, the party has supported the government in allowing the jewelry and valuables of asylum seekers to be seized by authorities in payment for their reception, and in banning face veils.

“Why should the social democratic position be we should leave people alone, and leave the right with the argument that we have to have a common cultural background?” asked Tesfaye, the son of a Danish woman and a refugee from Ethiopia, who serves as the party’s point person on the issue. “It should be a core issue for social democratic parties to break down these parallel societies and make sure we all belong to each other.”

The strategy may be paying off: Opinion polls indicate the party may lead a left-wing coalition into government next year.

Attacking from the left

The Social Democrats blame the perception that they are soft on immigration for recent electoral troubles. After governing Denmark for most of the 20th century, they have been out of power for all but four years since 2001.

That was the year immigration became a defining political issue, in an election that immediately followed the September 11 attacks on the United States. Voters began to abandon the left in favor of tough-on-immigration right-leaning governments, showing they were willing to compromise on the welfare state if it meant migration controls.

The right-wing populist Danish People’s Party drew voters away from the left as it lent support to governments on the condition they impose immigration freezes and cut refugee support, steadily reshaping the policies of its rivals in its own image.

In April 2017, around the same time the Social Democrats released their new party policy, Tesfaye published “Welcome, Mustafa,” a book analyzing 50 years of his party’s stance on immigration. In it, he refutes the party’s image as being pro-open borders, revealing years of debates and divisions on the issue and rehabilitating early figures who warned integration could be a problem, but who were ignored.

Tesfaye draws on the experience of his own family. When his father was granted asylum, he struggled to integrate because it was not clear what Denmark expected of him, Tesfaye recalled.

“We have to be very explicit. We have to say for example: We need you to support a secular state where there’s a religious freedom, and where the common rules of society are supported by secular arguments. We need you to make sure your children learn Danish. We need you to live not just in one place where all the refugees are,” Tesfaye said.

Reframing immigration

The Social Democrats formulate opposition to immigration as an integral left-wing position, necessary to protect the party’s traditional working-class voter base from immigrants who would compete for their jobs and send their children into their schools.

Tesfaye defends the ghetto plan, for example, as necessary to defend the welfare state, arguing that people can be asked to pay up to 53 percent in income tax for health, education and a safety net only if they feel part of a common unit with their fellow citizens.

Tesfaye also defends the measure as an investment in children’s education — a classic Social Democrat policy — and argues it should be applied across Denmark.

“With migration to Denmark it’s our own voters, and our own families, who have paid the highest price,” he said. “It’s a problem for a Social Democrat if we have areas in our country where the language is shifting to Arabic or Turkish, because it undermines the common ground [on which] the welfare state is based.”

The number of asylum seekers granted permission to reside in Denmark — though the number dwindled to 2,700 last year from a peak of 11,000 in 2015 — is still too much for the country, he said. Syrians, Iranians, Afghans and Eritrean make up the largest numbers of people seeking asylum in Denmark.

“When as a little boy I walked around in the second-biggest city of Denmark, I had a black father,” he said. “People were turning their heads because he was black. Not in a negative way, but just because it was so extraordinary that a black man was walking around in our suburb. This has changed in my lifetime.”

Since 1980, non-Western immigrants have risen from being 1 percent of the population to 8.5 percent now. “It’s been uncontrolled, we can’t control who is coming to Denmark and from where,” Tesfaye said.

His party now supports retaining border controls with Germany — an emergency measure as Denmark is within the European border-free Schengen area — until it is satisfied that the EU’s external borders are controlled. It wants to set up a processing center for refugees outside Europe where asylum seekers can apply, to stop them traveling to Denmark in advance. The number accepted should be capped, family reunifications limited, and immigrants incentivized to return to their country of origin or be deported where needed.

In the ghetto

The reality of the ghetto laws will soon hit the residents of the low-rise apartment buildings of Mjølnerparken, a leafy housing development north of Copenhagen.

“Our shared language is Danish, our common identity is Danish,” says Muhammed Aslam, chairman of the residents’ association in Mjølnerparken. “We don’t see it as a parallel society at all” | Andrew Kelly/Reuters

By the government’s analysis, Mjølnerparken is one of the most severe “ghettos” — of its 1,752 residents, 82 percent are non-Western immigrants or their descendants, and 43.5 percent are unemployed.

Muhammed Aslam, chairman of the residents’ association, sees it differently.

“About 30 different nationalities live here, of different backgrounds and cultures. Our shared language is Danish, our common identity is Danish,” he said. “We don’t see it as a parallel society at all.” 

Residents reject the label “ghetto.” Though the area has gained a certain notoriety due to some gang shootings — rare and shocking for Denmark — its pristine playgrounds and tranquility make it hard to see this as a “ghetto” by any international understanding of the term.

“I don’t agree with this form of collective punishment,” said Iliana, 53, a nurse and translator from Romania who declined to give her full name. She had lived in the country for 25 years, and was sharing a picnic with women from Denmark and Iraq in a courtyard between apartment blocks as children played nearby. “They’re punishing everyone before people have done anything wrong,” she said. 

Aslam, who moved to Denmark with his parents from Pakistan in 1969 when he was 7, said he felt the government was betraying the values of the country he grew up in.

“Given my fantastic experience growing up with such a fair democracy as Denmark I couldn’t have imagined even five years ago that we could have ended up with a law that’s so discriminatory,” said Aslam, an estranged member of the Social Democrats. “It takes away the principle of equality before the law.”

Aslam said he does not recognize the government’s image of Mjølnerparken, and urged politicians to enter into dialogue with the community about what the area really needs — apprenticeships for young people and help to find employment, he suggested.

“It has become a competition about who can be the toughest against immigration, refugees and Muslims,” he said with a sigh. “That’s going to be the basis on which the next election is won or lost.”

Source: Danish left veering right on immigration

What to Know About Denmark’s Controversial Plan to Eradicate Immigrant “Ghettos”

No recognition that a significant part of integration lies with the host society, and too much emphasis on sticks rather than carrots:

Pupils in 24 Danish schools will be “guinea pigs” for a new policy aimed at integrating non-Western immigrants into Danish society. From 2019, it will become law for schools that take more than 30 percent of their students from “ghetto” areas to force their students to take language tests.

Denmark‘s government currently lists 22 areas as “ghettos,” areas with social problems where more than 50% of residents are non-Western immigrants.

According to the Copenhagen Post, Students from those 24 schools will undergo Danish tests in the coming months—making them some of the first to be affected by the Danish government’s new sweeping laws aimed at eradicating immigrant “ghettos” by 2030.

“There are a number of parents who come from the Middle East who have a totally different understanding of pedagogy, childhood and school than their Scandinavian counterparts,” said Merete Riisager, the Danish minister of education, according to the Post.

Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen had previously announced in his New Year speech that the government intended to take measures to “end the existence of ghettos” completely. That was followed by an announcement in March that the government would pursue a new set of laws to will “deal with parallel societies.”

While it’s not the first time the government has tried to abolish “ghettos,” the latest raft of laws mean the government will specifically target these areas—proactively enforcing rulesaimed at integrating non-Western, predominantly Muslim immigrants into Danish society.

Many of the country’s 500,000 non-Western immigrants—largely from Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Somalia—live in these so-called ghettos. There, politicians say, “Danishness” is threatened by the prevalence of other languages and cultural traditions.

To many immigrants, the plans feel like a thinly-veiled way of telling them they are not welcome in Denmark. Hardline policy on immigration has become the new political consensus; even the typically pro-immigration Social Democrat party, Denmark’s largest opposition party, has supported the government’s anti-ghetto plans in an effort to win back voters deserting the party over immigration concerns.

Here, more on exactly what the new policies involve.

Obligatory daycare

One of the most contentious aspects of the plans is the forced enrolment of children from “ghetto” areas in classes from the age of 1 that teach “Danish values” and the Danish language. Such classes would run for a minimum of 30 hours per week, according to government plans.

While Danish parents are not obliged to enrol their own children, parents in “ghettos” who fail to do so could have their child benefit payments stopped by municipalities.

Demolition and redevelopment

The new laws allow the government to instruct certain ghettos be demolished. “For certain ghetto areas,” the plans say, “the challenges of parallel society, crime and insecurity are so massive that it is both practical and economical to [demolish] the ghetto area and start over again.” The government has set aside more than $1.8 billion for the demolition or conversion of ghetto areas until 2026.

The plans assert that part of the reason for social problems in ghettos is the prevalence of “family homes,” and that private investors should be allowed to construct “new housing types” in struggling areas to address this. The plans also make it easier for landlords to evict tenants, in order to speed up the government’s regeneration strategy.

Tougher criminal punishments in certain areas

Under the new plans, crimes such as vandalism or theft will be punished twice as harshly if they occur within ghetto boundaries as opposed to outside them. For crimes that already have high penalties, the punishment will be increased by one third. And if a crime is normally punished with a fine, imprisonment can be levied if it occurs inside a ghetto. The plans also state that more police will be deployed to the streets of the areas under most pressure.

Lowering benefits within ghettos

Immigrants who settle in Denmark can claim benefits with few strings attached. But one of the new laws states that immigrants who live within ghetto boundaries should receive lower benefits—thereby making it “economically less attractive” to live in ghetto areas.

Incentives for reducing unemployment

Unemployment is a serious problem in these areas; the government says a third of non-Western immigrants have been out of work or school for four of the last five years.

To tackle this, the government has announced that municipalities which succeed in getting immigrants into employment will be rewarded financially, to the tune of nearly $8,000 per worker.

Source: What to Know About Denmark’s Controversial Plan to Eradicate Immigrant “Ghettos”

Le Danemark déclare la guerre aux ghettos ethniques

Interesting reporting:

En ce matin de printemps, tout semble paisible à Mjolnerparken. Des pères accompagnent leur enfant à la garderie, des vieux discutent sur un banc et les coquelicots décorent l’ancienne voie ferrée devenue depuis longtemps un parc linéaire où s’ébrouent les enfants.

Comment imaginer qu’il y a un an, jour pour jour, un jeune homme de 22 ans a été abattu ici en pleine rue ?

« L’été dernier, pendant six mois, les fusillades se sont succédé. Les tireurs arrivaient en vespa et tiraient sur tout ce qui bougeait », dit Soren Wiborg, de la société Bo-Vita, qui loue ces appartements à loyer modique dans le quartier de Norrebro, à Copenhague.

Soren connaissait bien le jeune musulman tombé sous les balles des tueurs. « Il sortait de prison et essayait de s’en sortir. Il voulait se faire une nouvelle vie. Je l’aidais à chercher du travail, mais la guerre des gangs aura eu sa peau », dit cet ancien policier.

En six mois, la guerre entre les LTF venus des quartiers alentour et les Brothas de Mjolnerparken a fait trois morts et une vingtaine de blessés. Une trentaine de jeunes de cet ensemble qui compte 2000 habitants sont aujourd’hui en prison.

Dans son petit bureau, qui jouxte le Café Nora qui tente d’aider les femmes somaliennes à sortir de chez elles, Soren Wiborg a pour rôle d’aider les 300 chômeurs de ce groupe d’habitations à se trouver du travail.

« Et quand des parents me disent que leur jeune ne veut pas aller à l’école, je vais lui donner un petit coup de pied dans le derrière. Ça peut faire du bien parfois », dit-il en éclatant de rire.

C’est aussi Soren qui supervise les 15 jeunes du quartier engagés quatre heures par semaine pour nettoyer les parties communes. « Au Danemark, on n’a rien pour rien, dit-il. On a des services exceptionnels, mais il faut travailler pour ! »

La guerre aux ghettos

Avec sa population à 92 % étrangère (surtout somalienne, pakistanaise et arabe), Mjolnerparken est ce qui ressemble le plus à ce que le gouvernement a officiellement désigné comme des « ghettos ». En mars dernier, sans prévenir, huit ministres, dont le premier ministre libéral Lars Lokke Rasmussen, ont débarqué avec force police et mesures de sécurité dans la petite salle commune du quartier. Ils avaient choisi Mjolnerparken pour annoncer un vaste programme destiné à démanteler les 16 zones urbaines du Danemark que le gouvernement considère comme des « ghettos ».

« On doit pouvoir reconnaître notre pays. Il y a des endroits au Danemark où je ne reconnais pas ce que je vois », a déclaré le premier ministre. Au menu de ce vaste projet encore discuté au Parlement : la garderie obligatoire pour les enfants à partir d’un an, des cours obligatoires sur la culture et les valeurs danoises, un grand programme de rénovation urbaine, des aides majorées pour la recherche d’emploi et pour les étudiants étrangers ainsi qu’une peine qui pourrait aller jusqu’à quatre ans de prison pour les parents d’origine étrangère qui forceraient leur enfant à rentrer au pays, pour se marier par exemple.

Les demandeurs d’asile savent que le Danemark compte parmi les pays les plus généreux sur le plan social. Mais nous avons nous aussi des problèmes d’intégration. Il y a au Danemark des Somaliens qui vivent chez nous depuis 19 ans et qui ne parlent pas danois.

Intitulé Un Danemark sans sociétés parallèles, ce programme veut en finir avec les ghettos ethniques d’ici 2030. Afin de faciliter l’intégration, il veut notamment limiter à 30 % la proportion d’enfants étrangers dans les écoles. Parmi les mesures plus contestées, la ministre de l’Intégration, Inger Stojbert, surnommée « la Dame de fer danoise », a aussi proposé de pénaliser les bénéficiaires d’allocations sociales qui s’installent dans ces logements ainsi que des peines majorées pour les crimes commis dans ces zones sensibles. Il faut dire que la ministre n’en est pas à ses premiers coups d’éclat médiatiques. En 2016, c’est elle qui avait proposé de confisquer les biens des demandeurs d’asile qui dépassaient 2000 $ (excluant évidemment les bijoux et objets personnels). Plus récemment, à l’occasion du ramadan, elle s’est inquiétée de la sécurité dans les transports publics où certains employés pouvaient passer 16 heures sans boire ni manger.

« Tough love » à la danoise

Le porte-parole du gouvernement en matière d’immigration, Marcus Knuth, le reconnaît, la politique du Danemark en matière d’immigration ressemble un peu à ce que les psychologues des années 1980 appelaient « tough love ». L’amour vache, diraient les Français. Il faut dire qu’au Parlement de Christianborg, les libéraux gouvernent avec le soutien implicite du Parti du peuple danois, dont la plateforme est férocement opposée à l’immigration.

« Les demandeurs d’asile savent que le Danemark compte parmi les pays les plus généreux sur le plan social, dit Marcus Knuth. Mais nous avons nous aussi des problèmes d’intégration. Il y a au Danemark des Somaliens qui vivent chez nous depuis 19 ans et qui ne parlent pas danois. Nombre de problèmes de criminalité, dans les écoles et au travail sont liés à l’immigration. Nous ne voulons pas des immenses ghettos que l’on voit aujourd’hui en Suède. » Les 70 mesures votées par le Parlement depuis trois ans semblent porter leurs fruits. En deux ans, le nombre de demandeurs d’asile a chuté de 21 000 à 3500.

« Le gouvernement confond égalité et identité », estime Mohamed Aslam, qui habite Mjolnerparken depuis 1987 même s’il possède aujourd’hui une compagnie de taxis et emploie six chauffeurs. « J’aime vivre ici. Je ne partirais pour rien au monde », dit cet homme qui semble surgir d’une rue d’Islamabad. Arrivé du Pakistan avec ses parents, Aslam préside aujourd’hui l’association des locataires. Selon lui, il n’y a pas plus de criminalité à Mjolnerparken qu’ailleurs. « Il n’y a pas de ghettos au Danemark. Tout ça, ce sont des inventions pour stigmatiser les étrangers. Des mesures électoralistes », dit-il.

Un programme généreux

Il règne pourtant au Danemark un surprenant consensus sur l’immigration. Malgré des débats en Chambre, le programme est soutenu pour l’essentiel par les trois principaux partis de la Chambre : libéraux, sociaux-démocrates et le Parti du peuple. Selon Marcus Knuth, il est peut-être difficile d’immigrer au Danemark, mais le pays compte parmi les plus généreux lorsque vient le moment de faciliter l’intégration.

« Être réfugié au Danemark, c’est un emploi à temps plein », confirme Karen-Lise Karman, responsable des services municipaux d’intégration de Copenhague. Une fois admis, chaque réfugié reçoit une allocation de plus de 1000 $ par mois, la même que reçoivent les étudiants. Le nouvel arrivant s’engage ainsi à suivre des cours de danois obligatoires et à participer à une série de stages en entreprise de 12 semaines, chacun interrompu par six semaines de cours. Ce processus peut durer cinq ans, jusqu’à ce que le candidat trouve un emploi.

« Certes, il y a de la démagogie et de la stigmatisation dans les politiques de ce gouvernement, admet le politologue Jorgen Goul Andersen. Mais aussi beaucoup de générosité. » Selon lui, le Danemark annonce souvent ce qui s’en vient en Europe. « Nous avons été les premiers, par exemple, à créer un ministère de l’Intégration. Il y a 30 ans, lorsqu’on disait qu’il y avait des problèmes d’intégration, on nous traitait de racistes. Nos élites ont trop longtemps fermé les yeux. Le reconnaître ne nous a pas empêchés de demeurer une société très tolérante. » À ceux qui traitent le Danemark de raciste, le politologue rappelle que, pendant la dernière guerre, le pays a été un des seuls occupés par l’Allemagne à protéger sa population juive des déportations. Le Danemark demeure aussi un des cinq pays du monde à consacrer plus que 0,7 % de son PNB à l’aide internationale, alors que le Canada est en dessous de 0,3 %.

À Mjolnerparken, les changements sont déjà en cours. Une tour de 29 étages est sur le point d’être terminée. On y logera bientôt des étudiants et des familles de la classe moyenne. Dans deux ans, on ne reconnaîtra plus ce quartier, dit Hajji, un Ougandais de 53 ans. « C’est une bonne chose, dit-il. Ici, il y a trop de criminalité. Il faut plus de mixité. » Même s’il a quatre enfants au Danemark, il dit ne pas se sentir danois. « Le Danemark, c’est surtout pour les papiers, dit-il. Moi, je viens de l’Ouganda. D’ailleurs, j’y retournerai un jour… »

Source: Le Danemark déclare la guerre aux ghettos ethniques

Unsurprising that stricter Danish rules give fewer Muslims citizenship: immigration minister

Frank and direct:
Denmark’s minister for immigration Inger Støjberg says she is not surprised that fewer Muslims have been approved for Danish citizenship since the government introduced stricter rules in 2015.

According to research carried out by newspaper Politiken, 70 percent of new Danish citizenships in 2014 were to people from primarily Muslim countries. That figure has fallen drastically to 21 percent this year.

In the same period, Denmark has begun to allow double citizenship, increasingly the likelihood of nationalisation applications from Western countries.

Støjberg said the figures show that the curbs, which her ministry was responsible for implementing, have had the desired effect.

“There is no doubt that this is because the demands have been increased. For example, the language requirement, being able to provide for oneself, staying away from criminality and passing certain tests,” she said.

“In my view there is no doubt at all that it is much easier to integrate a Christian American than a Muslim Somali,” Støjberg said.

The citizenship rules introduced in 2015 by the then-Liberal government with the support of Denmark’s other right wing parties included more stringent language demands, financial autonomy, a higher score in the citizenship test and stricter rules relating to criminal records.

“It is clear that if you come from other parts of the world, you have to exert yourself somewhat harder to, for example, learn the language,” Støjberg said.

She added she would begin talks over potential further curbs in the coming week.

“I have tightened up [on citizenship] once, and a new set of curbs is now on its way. People that have committed gang crime must not be allowed citizenship,” she said.

“The aim of tough rules is to make Danish citizenship something to strive for,” she added.

Source: Unsurprising that stricter Danish rules give fewer Muslims citizenship: immigration minister

Refugees should be sent home even if they have jobs, says Danish immigration official | The Independent

Another example of xenophobia and “othering,” despite labour shortages:

A Danish MP has called for all refugees, even those with jobs, to be deported from the country once their home nations are deemed “safe”.

Marcus Knuth, an immigration spokesman for the governing Liberal (Venstre) party, said all people who have been granted asylum in Denmark should be made to go back to their country of origin regardless of whether they had already assimilated into Danish life.

The government, which is minority controlled by the Liberals with support from the Danish People’s Party, Liberal Alliance and the Conservative People’s Party, is currently negotiating what is being called a “paradigm change” in the country’s attitude to asylum.

The rule change is being demanded by the nationalist Danish People’s Party in return for supporting tax cuts. The new rules would see refugees granted temporary asylum, meaning they will be ordered to go back to their home country when the danger had past and are denied the right to family reunification.

These refugees will also be barred from accessing integration services such as language lessons and the “basic integration education programme” – an apprenticeship scheme introduced last year, The Local reported.

A similar scheme was introduced in Germany last year following a backlash against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open door policy to refugees fearing violence in Iraq and Syria.

Over 1 million refugees arrived in Germany in 2016.

But the new rules are likely to create a big hole in the Danish jobs market as the arrival of refugees has made up for a reported decline in the number of people coming to the country from eastern Europe.

A report by the Danish newspaper Berlingske said that workers from outside the EU made up a larger share of foreign workers than EU citizens for the first time.

Meanwhile the Confederation of Danish Industry has repeatedly stressed the difficulty its members have had in filling its jobs – which it said was largely to do with the falling number of people arriving in the country to work.

Figures released by the body in November showed that the number of EU citizens coming to Denmark to work has fallen by 65 percent in the space of 15 months.

According to their analysis EU citizens took just 11 per cent of newly created jobs in Denmark in 2017 – compared with 87 per cent in 2013.

But Mr Knuth is adamant that “overall refugees are an economic burden for Denmark”.

He said: “The number of refugees on the labour market is fortunately increasing. But at the same time, they do not make up a big part of the jobs market”.

“If refugees can make a contribution, that can only be positive. But that does not change the fact that, as soon as there is peace in their home country, that have to go back”.

via Refugees should be sent home even if they have jobs, says Danish immigration official | The Independent

Commentary: Native US Virgin Islanders should be entitled to Danish citizenship | Caribbean News Now

A history I was never aware of, and an interesting debate over Danish citizenship:

US Virgin Islanders who officially reside in the islands and can trace their ancestry back to the Danish era (1671 – 1917) should be entitled to automatic Danish citizenship, whether they decide to renounce their United States citizenship or obtain dual citizenship of Denmark and the United States.

Wayne A.G. James is a former Senator of the United States Virgin Islands and former Senate Liaison to the White House

The request of US Virgin Islanders for automatic Danish citizenship is separate and distinct from any claim for reparations or the redressing of past wrongs. To the contrary, the request is a claim for the redress of a present, ongoing wrong: Many US Virgin Islanders, in 2017, still feel part-Danish; many US Virgin Islanders are, by blood, part-Danish; and many US Virgin Islanders feel that they have earned the right to Danish citizenship because of the 246 years of service and contribution to the Danish nation. In essence, many US Virgin Islanders feel that Danish citizenship is their birthright.

But despite the undeniable connection between US Virgin Islanders and Denmark, islanders have never been offered, been deemed worthy of, or been declared entitled to Danish citizenship. And that deliberate disregard is fundamentally unfair and should be remedied. The world has changed. Long-held views about race, privilege, miscegenation, xenophobia, and colonialism, for example, have fallen by the wayside since the dawning of the new millennium. “Tolerance,” “multi-culturalism,” “political correctness,” and “inclusion” are the new order of the day. And Denmark should act accordingly vis-à-vis US Virgin Islanders.

Unlike people from many other nationalities who arrive upon Danish shores, oftentimes with no historical connection to the kingdom of Denmark, the people of the United States Virgin Islands do not need Danish citizenship in order to improve their lives. US Virgin Islanders are not seeking Danish citizenship in order to avoid political or religious persecution in their homeland or to improve their economic condition, further their education, or obtain better living conditions.

Americans have not historically been known for seeking asylum and refugee status in foreign lands. US Virgin Islanders are Americans. And as such, they are, by birth, citizens of the wealthiest country on Earth; the United States Constitution entitles them to the coveted civil rights of freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and movement; many of the world’s foremost universities and institutions of higher learning are situated in the United States; the separation of church and state as well as religious freedom and tolerance are hallmarks of American culture; the United States is one of the most industrially and technologically advanced nations on the planet; and Americans generally do not emigrate to other countries in search of opportunity.

To the contrary, Americans, because of their individual wealth, generally invest in foreign lands. And their pension plans and social security system are the envy of many nations. Furthermore, it is irrefutable that American talent has shaped the cultural arts and sports the world over. Americans tend to enhance, rather than detract from, the cultures they embrace. And the proverbial “American Dream” remains a beacon for people all over the world seeking success. But the fact that US Virgin Islanders are fortunate to be Americans should not negate their fundamental right to also be Danish.

Historical Overview

The US Virgin Islands was owned by the kingdom of Denmark for just shy of 250 years. And it is just 100 years ago that the islands lost their official connection to Denmark. Consequently, there are still a few people alive in the islands who were born in the Danish era. And Denmark is ever-present in the islands: Most of the written recorded history of the US Virgin Islands begins with Danish colonization in the 17th century; the towns of Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted, and Frederiksted are all named in honor of Danish monarchs; the US Virgin Islands telephone directory is punctuated with Danish surnames such as Petersen, Larsen, Hansen, Ovesen, Jeppesen, Jensen, Rasmussen, Christensen, Fredriksen, and Johansen, all people who are today classified as black; street names in the three historic towns end in “gade”; Danish-inspired foods comprise and partly define the traditional local cuisine; Danish West Indies colonial furniture is considered one of the great US Virgin Islands contributions to the decorative arts of the world; the historic documents that connect present-day US Virgin Islanders to the sometimes-elusive ancestors are written in Danish hand upon Danish parchment oftentimes in the Danish language. Danish-era buildings are found throughout the islands and remain the foremost architectural monuments of the islands; Danish flags still fly atop flagstaffs.

Despite the passage of time and the international dominance of American culture, the Virgin Islands and many Virgin Islanders, in many ways, still feel as much Danish as American.

Source: Commentary: Native US Virgin Islanders should be entitled to Danish citizenship | Caribbean News Now

Denmark’s Right Wing Peddles Anti-Migrant Spray – The Daily Beast


There has never been any question about how some Danes really feel when it comes to refugees and migrants. After all, Denmark is a country where the parliament actually voted to seize certain high-value items from them to help offset the costs of their housing and health care. It is also a country where it is legal to bounce migrants and refugees out of nightclubs just for being migrants and refugees.

Now some Danes have taken things a step further by handing out a special pepper spray that is meant to keep refugees away. The refugee-repellent product, Asyl Spray (presumably playing on the word asylum), was distributed in the southeast port city of Haderslev last weekend by the right-wing Danskernes Parti political group.

The purse-size spray can features the promise to “repel refugees” in a “legal” and “effective” way.

 Party leader Daniel Carlsen, who says he came up with the idea, rebuffed outrage by claiming that most pepper spray is illegal in Denmark, and the anti-refugee spray provided a legal alternative.

“I cannot see how it is racist,” he told CNN. “Pepper spray is illegal here so we wanted to figure out a way for Danish people, in particular women, to protect themselves. It’s obviously not the ideal situation.”

He said he knew that while the spray could not stop migrants and refugees from trying to reach Denmark, it might act as a deterrent for those that have arrived. “In the long run we want to repatriate the migrants, we want to repatriate non-Westerners in general, that is in the long run,” he said. “In the short run we want to provide solutions to make life better and safer for the Danish people.”

Not surprisingly, the Danish approach to migration has raised eyebrows among those concerned about the tens of thousands attempting to reach Europe. The United Nations agency on refugees issued a statement of sheer disgust about the produce, stating that it “strongly regrets that this kind of incident is taking place in Denmark against asylum seekers and refugees, people who have already suffered so much.”

Source: Denmark’s Right Wing Peddles Anti-Migrant Spray – The Daily Beast