Denmark’s immigration ministry declares it ‘wonderful’ more migrants left than entered in 2019

Danish candour. Almost Trumpian:

Denmark’s immigration ministry says more migrants left Denmark in 2019 than entered, with the minister in charge of the matter calling the official figures ‘wonderful’.

It was the first time since 2011 that net migration – the difference between immigration and emigration – was negative.

Mattias Tesfaye said: ‘Whenever possible, it is only natural for refugees to travel back to their homeland. I am glad that we can give people protection while it is needed. But I’m also happy every time a refugee can return home’.

Net immigration to Denmark has been falling since 2015. Last year, a net 730 people left the Scandinavian country of 5.8 million.

The figures released by the Immigration Ministry showed that the main groups of people who left last year were Somalis, Syrians, Iraqis and Bosnians – while people from Eritrea, Iran and Afghanistan sought shelter in the country.

Eva Singer of the Danish Refugee Council, a nongovernmental organisation, said the drop should not be attributed to Danish immigration policy but to the fact that fewer people have been able to reach Denmark, in part because of Turkey closing its border to the European Union.

Denmark in recent times has grabbed international attention for its strict stand toward immigrants.

The current Social Democratic minority government has taken a softer, albeit tough stance than the previous centre-right government that had the parliamentary support of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (their leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl is pictured)

The current Social Democratic minority government has taken a softer, albeit tough stance than the previous centre-right government that had the parliamentary support of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party.

Across Europe, the surge of more than million refugees and economic migrants that arrived in 2015 prompted a populist backlash that gave a huge boost to anti-migrant parties and drained votes from mainstream parties, particularly left-wing parties with welcoming migration policies.

Many newcomers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East headed to wealthy nations in northern Europe with generous taxpayer-supported welfare systems.

Thousands transited via Denmark to reach neighbouring Sweden, which took in 163,000 migrants that year alone – the largest number per capita of anywhere in Europe.

Source: Denmark’s immigration ministry declares it ‘wonderful’ more migrants left than entered in 2019

Denmark’s ‘ghetto plan’ and the communities it targets

Hard to see how these measures will improve integration instead of promoting separation and exclusion, particularly those related to differential penalties and punishments:

At the end of each year, the Danish government publishes a list of what it classifies as the country’s “ghettos”. There are currently 28.

Areas where more than 50 percent of residents are immigrants or descendants of “non-Western countries” can be designated a “ghetto” based on the following criteria: income, percentage of those employed, levels of education and proportion of people with criminal convictions.

Denmark is currently executing its controversial national “ghetto plan” – One Denmark without Parallel Societies: No Ghettos in 2030 – introduced by the previous government in March 2018, and now passed into a set of harsh laws and a housing policy.

This involves the physical demolishment and transformation of low-income, largely Muslim neighbourhoods. Residents of these areas – working-class, immigrant and refugee communities – say the measures are aimed at containing as well as dispersing them.

The term “ghetto”, with its negative connotations of festering crime, unemployment and dysfunction is a source of anguish for residents who believe the plan stigmatises them further while offering no improvements to their conditions. Anger, confusion and a feeling of betrayal are mounting among those deemed to be living in “ghettos”.

Residents of “ghettos” are now subject to a different set of rules. Penalties for crimes can be doubled. Certain violations, for example, which are normally finable offences could mean imprisonment.

Laws passed last March require children from the age of one to spend at least 25 hours a week in childcare to receive mandatory training in “Danish values”. There was even a proposal from the far-right Danish People’s party that “ghetto children” should have a curfew of 8pm, although that was rejected by the parliament.

But perhaps one of the most insidious rules is that public housing in so-called “hard ghettos” will be limited to only 40 percent of total housing by 2030. This means that public housing is now either being torn down, redeveloped or rented to private companies. The fear is that thousands across Denmark may have to leave their homes. By some reports, that number could be more than 11,000 people.

Poul Aaroe Pedersen, a spokesperson at the Ministry of Transport and Housing, which is overseeing the housing changes, said in an email that the aim “is to prevent parallel societies” by integrating “socially disadvantaged residential areas” with the surrounding community through the development of different types of housing.

Pederson said it is not possible to provide an exact number for how many people would need to move.

According to lawyer Morten Tarp, two communities, one in the city of Helsingor and the other in the town of Slagelse, whose residents he is working to support, will receive the country’s first housing contract termination notices in early 2020.

Mjolnerparken, a so-called “hard ghetto”, is a four-block housing complex situated in Norrebro, a lively, multicultural and gentrifying district in Copenhagen.

There, 260 residencies will be sold. Residents have been informed through the housing association that they will have to move and are being encouraged to relocate to other areas. Many are uncertain about what will happen next.

We visited Mjolnerparken and spoke to four residents about how the regulations are affecting their lives and their fears for the future.

Source: https://aje.io/8qwf7

Citizenship in Scandinavia – What are reasonable demands for full membership?

Interesting comparison, showing despite the different approaches, the underlying views on citizenship requirements in all three countries were very similar:

In 2018, together with our colleagues in the other Scandinavian countries, we undertook a representative survey in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Young people from ages 20 to 36 were interviewed – just over 7500 in total. Individuals from the majority populations, descendants of immigrants from Iraq, Pakistan, Poland, Somalia, Turkey, and Vietnam, were included. Immigrants from Iraq and Somalia also participated in the survey in all three countries, while immigrants from Pakistan, Poland and Turkey were included, in addition, in the Norwegian sample. All respondents were asked what they considered reasonable requirements for citizenship, what they thought of the existing rules in their respective countries, and to what extent they felt they were recognized as members of the national community.

Citizenship is the last stop on the way to formal membership in a new homeland. Before this, immigrants with legal status already enjoy many rights. New members of Scandinavian societies have access to some civil and social rights, from day one in the country. Still, citizenship is regarded as important and attractive, especially among those who come from countries with greater legal, economic, and political uncertainty. Citizenship in Scandinavia protects them from deportation, in principle at least. It bestows help overseas, grants the right to vote in parliamentary elections – and not least, gives access to a Scandinavian passport, with all the rights to travel freely and work in the entire EU region.

In the last few years there has been a trend to implement stricter requirements for citizenship in many European countries, such as knowledge tests (language, history, and society), proof of self-sufficiency, and longer waiting times.

Among researchers, these stricter requirements are often interpreted from either a control or an integration perspective: Recent increases in immigration have made authorities keen on finding legal ways to control access to citizenship. On the other hand, concerns over integration have raised the bar for competence in language and knowledge about society, and those who are permanent residents and seek citizenship are required to meet this higher bar in order to become full members.

Regardless of how one interprets the politics, these laws create indisputably higher barriers. There has been an (implicit) assumption among researchers that the stricter requirements are not in immigrants’ interest, but no empirical research has been done. This new survey is the first to investigate these issues empirically.

The three Scandinavian countries are interesting to compare because they cover the entire scale when it comes to citizenship requirements. Denmark is one of the strictest countries in Europe when it comes to citizenship. Sweden is on the liberal outer edge, while Norway – as is often the case with immigration and integration policies – finds itself somewhere in the middle.

We began our study with the assumption that these marked political differences would be mirrored in the immigrant groups and descendants’ attitudes in the three countries – that immigrants and descendants in Denmark would be more critical of the country’s rules, than corresponding groups would be to Swedish policies in Sweden, for example. We also thought the majority populations would want stricter requirements than the minorities would, especially in Denmark. The results did not meet our expectations though, and in many ways were very surprising.

Overall the survey does not show big differences between the three countries, and when it comes to attitudes toward how the rules are and should be, there are barely differences between the three groups (majority, immigrants, and descendants). The prevailing attitude is that it is legitimate to set requirements for new members of society who become citizens – the majority across groups believe these requirements should include five years of residence, a simple language and society test, an oath, and being part of the work force. At the same time, they think it should be legal to keep one’s original citizenship when naturalizing. In other words, there should be clear requirements to become a full member of a Scandinavian society, but these should be reasonable and possible to meet. The results paint a picture of consensus on what “reasonable” means – a framework that lies somewhere between the extremes represented by Denmark and Sweden.

Other institutions, like the education system, labor market, and health care system are probably more important as a basis for attitudes toward membership in society than citizenship.

How should we interpret these findings? The alignment in attitudes across our survey respondents is a pointer to the fact that life in Scandinavia is not so different across the three countries, despite the respective states’ different policies on immigration. In fact, other institutions, like the education system, labor market, and health care system are probably more important as a basis for attitudes toward membership in society than citizenship.

The survey does not tell us anything about emphasis placed on different institutions’ importance for feelings of membership, acceptance, and belonging. But we do see indications of experiences of both discrimination and of lower levels of trust among minority groups.

The consensus on requirements, nevertheless, suggests that the citizenship institution continues to matter as a framework for togetherness. The survey also indicates that minority members of society are reflected actors, alongside majority society members, when it comes to guarding the last ticket into society – and what should be demanded, in order to ensure the functioning of an increasingly diverse society.

Source: Citizenship in Scandinavia – What are reasonable demands for full membership?

Latest Danish citizenship test has one-in-two pass rate

In contrast, when the Conservative government changed the knowledge test by increasing the required pass mark from 60 to 75 percent, rotated questions to reduce cheating along with a new citizenship guide (Discover Canada), all pre-C-24, the rate dropped to close to 80 percent from 96 percent.

Adjustments and changes were made subsequently that resulted in a pass rate of about 90 percent last time I checked.

Canadian citizenship tests are largely designed to facilitate citizenship, Danish ones to make it harder:

At a 52.77 percent pass rate, the success ratio for those hoping to become Danish nationals was slightly lower than the previous test in November 2018, which saw 53.48 percent pass.

A total of 3,502 people took the June 6th test at 52 language centres across Denmark, according to figures released by the Ministry of Immigration and Integration.

Since 2015, the Danish citizenship test (indfødsretsprøven), held twice annually, has consisted of 40 multiple choice questions on Danish culture, history and society. The pass mark is 32.

The pass rate for the test, for which the registration fee is currently 783 kroner, generally hovers around the 50 percent mark.

Passing the test is a prerequisite for all applicants for Danish citizenship. The content and difficulty level of the exam is monitored by the immigration ministry’s International Recruitment and Integration Board (Styrelsen for International Rekruttering og Integration, SIRI).

“It makes me very happy to see that foreigners who live here in Denmark want to become Danish citizens. Congratulations to those who passed the test – they are now one step closer to becoming citizens,” Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye said in a ministry press release.

“They have shown the will and motivation to learn about our culture, history and democratic system. Citizenship brings with it many new rights, but also an obligation to protect Denmark and help to build our lovely little country,” Tesfaye added.

The next citizenship test will take place on November 27th.

Source: Latest Danish citizenship test has one-in-two pass rate

The European Left’s Dangerous Anti-Immigrant Turn

Good overview of how far the centre has shifted:
Denmark’s center-left Social Democrats came in first in the country’s June 5 parliamentary elections—the third Nordic country where voters recently backed a left-leaning party in a Europe otherwise marked by social democracy’s decline.

Wednesday’s outcome broke with the past two decades of Danish politics. Social Democrats leader Mette Frederiksen, 41, became the country’s youngest-ever prime minister and the second woman to hold the job. Her party’s success—91 of the parliament’s 179 seats—upended a political landscape long dominated by the right. And on the heels of the European Parliament elections, in which populist, xenophobic parties saw important gains in France, Hungary, Italy, and Poland, the far-right Danish People’s Party saw its votes cut by more than half, after an unprecedented score in 2015.

But this week’s vote says less about the far right’s demise than about its steady creep into the mainstream. In something of a paradox, the center left returned to the scene only by lurching to the right. The Social Democrats, faced with waning support in the past two decades, have parroted the Danish People’s Party on immigration, backing hard-line policies they characterize as necessary to save the country’s prized welfare state.

Social-democratic parties across Europe have opted for that strategy, but in Denmark the dynamic is particularly pronounced. “While other social-democratic parties have adopted tougher immigration laws in times of ‘crisis’ and used anti-immigration and Islamophobic language, no party has so openly ran on a nativist and welfare-chauvinist agenda as the Danish Social Democrats,” Cas Mudde, a political scientist at the University of Georgia who specializes on populism, said by e-mail.

Take, for example, the so-called “ghetto package,” a series of policies aimed at improving integration and reducing crime in low-income areas that the state categorizes as “ghettos” because, among other criteria, more than half of their residents are of “non-Western” background. The package, introduced by the Danish People’s Party but backed by the Social Democrats, included measures ethnic minorities consider discriminatory: One law doubles punishments for crimes committed in “ghettos”; another requires “ghetto children” from age 1 to 6, the age when public education is required for the general population, to attend mandatory courses in Danish values and traditions, as well as language courses. Families that refuse to comply risk being stripped of government benefits.

The “ghetto package” is among the slew of policies targeting immigrants—particularly Muslims—that Denmark has embraced in the past few years, often with the Social Democrats’ support. These include a 2016 law that allows authorities to seize cash and valuables from asylum-seekers ostensibly to help the state finance their benefits, or a 2018 ban on the burqa—the full-face veil worn by only about 200 Muslim women nationwide. A law making handshakes a mandatory requirement for citizenship followed, clearly targeting Muslims who refuse to shake hands with the opposite sex. Plans are underway to isolate foreigners who have criminal records and served their sentences—asylum-seekers among them—on a far-off island, currently home to a center for researching highly communicable animal diseases. In 2005, the government required UN resettlement to be based on “integration potential,” and in 2016 it withdrew from the UN resettlement program entirely, with the Social Democrats’ support.

“The Social Democrats have made it very clear: They realize they’ve lost elections since the late 1990s by being outflanked by the right on immigration,” Rune Stubager, a political scientist at Aarhus University, told me. “They knew they’d have to change their position on the issue to win.”

The Social Democrats’ rightward shift has earned it the moniker “Danish People’s Party lite” among some Danes, disillusioned with what they see as the party’s betrayal of its progressive ideals. “There’s no question: They saw that, without anti-Islam as a central part of their platform, they have no chance of success,” Naveed Baig, an imam and the vice-chair of the Islamic-Christian Study Center in Copenhagen, told me, noting that Islam and immigration have become synonymous in current political debates. The climate has become so toxic, he said, that some Muslim families have considered leaving Denmark altogether.

Natasha Al-Hariri, a lawyer and minority-rights advocate, agreed. “It’s disturbing to see Frederiksen in the prime-minister spot,” she said. “She’ll adopt whatever position gets the most votes, even if that means aligning with the far right. When is enough enough?”

The Social Democrats say they’ll stick to their new line on immigration, which they describe as critical to maintaining Denmark’s welfare state, one of the most robust in Europe. “We need to have enough money and enough room in our country, to take care of our citizens,” Nanna Grave Poulsen, a party chairwoman, told me. “All of our immigration policies need to be put in the context of the welfare issue.”

But the number of migrants and asylum-seekers Denmark has admitted has actually declined in recent years, and its overall acceptance rate has been far below the EU average. The country’s economy is strong, and research indicates that strains to the welfare state stem from an aging population, not migrants, refugees, or Danes of “non-Western background.”

The mainstreaming of far-right views—and anti-immigrant rhetoric’s ability to capture the national attention—is evident in the emergence of two new parties to the right of the Danish People’s Party: the Hard Line and the New Right, the latter of which managed to enter parliament, just exceeding the 2 percent threshold. In the months leading up to the elections, the media fixated on Hard Line leader Rasmus Paludan, a lawyer who campaigned on a platform to deport all Danish Muslims. Paludan sparked riots in April when he threw the Quran in the air and let it hit the ground during a rally in a multicultural neighborhood in the capital. Since then, the state has spent around $6 million protecting him at his campaign rallies, during which he burns the Quran or stuffs it with bacon.

Although Paludan’s Hard Line didn’t end up entering the parliament, the media’s focus on his provocations propelled him to national significance. Before the April riots, he had garnered only around 5,000 of the 20,000 signatures necessary to present his candidacy; in the days that followed, he managed to multiply his following and enter the race.

The Hard Line and New Right have both solidified the Danish People’s Party’s position as a mainstream party and undermined its appeal. “It’s terrifying that these Nazis, knocking on Parliament’s door, make the Danish People’s Party look ‘meh,’” Al-Hariri said. “But at the same time, it would be incorrect to say it’s not part of the establishment.”

“All the focus on Paludan squeezed the Danish People’s Party, which suddenly seemed moderate on immigration,” Karina Kosaria-Pedersen, a political scientist at the University of Copenhagen, told me. Electorally speaking, the party’s transformation—from the margins to the mainstream—didn’t work in its favor. Its cooperation with major parties and success in dictating immigration policies made it look “more like the elite it had claimed to challenge,” she said. That new dynamic, plus an ongoing scandal over allegations of misused EU funds, have curbed the party’s steady ascent.

The Social Democrats, the clear winners of this political climate, now have to determine just how they will govern. The party has stood fast on its immigration policies. “We don’t want to lose the voters we’ve managed to take away from the far right,” Poulsen, the party chairwoman, told me. But it has also moved to the left on welfare and the environment, two critical issues for Danes. Accordingly, Prime Minister–elect Frederiksen rejected a proposal from the outgoing prime minister to enter a “grand coalition” with his conservative Liberals party, which won 75 seats. Instead, Frederiksen intends to form a minority government, working with parties across the spectrum on an ad hoc, issue-specific basis.

That won’t be easy. “She will be at odds with the left-wing parties, who want her to make concessions on immigration,” Stubager, the political scientist, said. She’s also likely to clash with conservative parties, who seek concessions on the economy; during their campaign, the Social Democrats promised to increase public spending, raise taxes on the wealthy, and make it easier for Danes to take early retirement after 40 years in the labor force. “It’s going to be a lengthy negotiation process,” Stubager said.

Stubager expects left-wing parties to “tie her down,” attempting to block Frederiksen from cooperating with the right on immigration. “They haven’t made it easy for themselves,” he said. “But I’m convinced that without their move on immigration, they wouldn’t have performed as well.’”

One Social Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the party’s slide had cemented Islamophobia into the center of Danish politics, but that Denmark wasn’t alone in this. “When it comes to our debate on immigration, the far right has won,” she told me. “The left has lost. The center has lost. This is true all over Europe.”

Source: The European Left’s Dangerous Anti-Immigrant Turn

Denmark’s centre-left set to win election with anti-immigration shift

Ongoing shift:

Tacking left on welfare and right on immigration looks likely to pay off for Denmark’s Social Democrats, who are widely expected to return to power this week as voters desert the centre-right government and the far right.

A poll this weekend predicted the centre-left party, led by Mette Frederiksen, will be the country’s largest with about 27% of the national vote after the election on Wednesday, while the “red bloc” of left-leaning parties it leads is on course for more than 55%.

The outgoing centre-right government of the prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, is forecast to finish a distant second on about 18%, with support for the far-right Danish People’s party predicted to collapse to barely 11%: half its score in the 2015 vote and a repeat of the DPP’s poor performance in the European elections last month.

The projected results follow the adoption by Denmark’s mainstream parties of hardline anti-immigration policies previously the preserve of the far right, which immigrants and human rights campaigners believe have led to a rise in racist abuse and discrimination.

Rasmussen’s Liberal party and the Social Democrats have both backed widely criticised measures on immigration, arguing they are needed to protect Denmark’s generous – if increasingly creaking – welfare system and to integrate migrants and refugees already in the country.

But discrimination cases are up and the number of racially or religiously motivated hate crimes registered by Danish police – which is likely to be lower than the actual figure because not all incidents are reported – surged to 365 in 2017 from 228 the year before.

Louise Holck, the deputy executive director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, said: “Politicians are moving very close to the boundaries of human rights.”

With a welter of tough new legislation aimed at discouraging further non-European immigration, the immigration minister, Inger Støjberg, installed a counter on the ministry’s website showing the government had tightened the law 114 times.

Many measures, some of which have been sharply criticised by Danish human rights campaigners and the UN refugee agency, have been supported not just by the DPP – a key ally propping up Rasmussen’s minority government – but also by the Social Democrats.

The centre-left party has repeatedly rejected criticism of this approach, saying it was necessary. “You are not a bad person just because you are worried about immigration,” Frederiksen said during a debate earlier this month.

Polls suggest, however, that the centre-left party’s tough stance swayed some voters to switch their support back from the populist DPP, which also faces a stiff challenge from two new small far-right parties, including Stram Kurs, which wants Islam to be banned and Muslims deported.

The Social Democrats have also won support by promising to increase public spending due to widespread anger in Denmark at what many voters see as the gradual erosion of the welfare state.

Cuts to healthcare services have led to the closure of one-quarter of state hospitals in the past decade, and one recent survey showed more than half of Danes did not believe the public health service offered the right treatments, prompting more than one-third to take out private health insurance, compared with 4% in 2003.

Other cuts over the past 10 years have led to the closure of about one-fifth of state schools, while spending per person on services such as care homes, cleaning and rehabilitation after illness for the over-65s has fallen by one-quarter.

Frederiksen has promised to raise public and welfare spending by 0.8% a year over the next five years, making businesses and the wealthy pay more through higher taxes and partially rolling back some recent pension changes.

Source: Denmark’s centre-left set to win election with anti-immigration shift

Danish Muslims feel backlash as immigration becomes election issue

Of note how a far right party can influence political discourse and shift the positions of mainstream parties:

Growing numbers of Danish Muslims say they have faced verbal abuse, exclusion and hate crimes since mainstream political parties began adopting anti-immigrant policies previously the preserve of the far right.

The ruling centre-right Liberal Party and the opposition Social Democrats both say a tough stance in immigration is needed to protect Denmark’s cherished welfare system and to integrate the migrants and refugees already in the country.

But Manilla Ghafuri, 26, who came to Denmark from Afghanistan in 2001 as a refugee, fears that anti-Muslim attitudes could harden further as the immigration debate heats up ahead of a general election on June 5.

“In 2015 I thought: ‘Wow, what’s happening?’ and I think it has got a lot worse over the last few years,” she told Reuters.

Ghafuri, who has more than once been told to go back to her “own country”, said she has been kicked out of a supermarket while shopping with her family. While she was working at a bakery a male customer refused to be served by her.

“I asked if I could help him, but he didn’t look at me at all. He just stood and waited for another girl who is an ethnic Danish girl,” said Ghafuri, who also works as a teacher and has a degree in Danish.

The number of immigrants from non-Western countries and their descendants who have experienced discrimination because of their ethnic background rose to 48% last year from 43% two years earlier, according to the National Integration Barometer.

“If people are ready and willing to be part of Danish society and want to contribute to it, then we invite them to become part of one of the best-functioning societies in the world,” said Mads Fuglede, the Liberal Party’s immigration spokesman.

“But we need to be able to discuss openly if there are problems with groups of people,” he said, citing the large number of immigrant women from the Middle East who have not found work in Denmark.

He did not see any connection between racist incidents and the tone of the immigration debate.

Tarek Ziad Hussein, 26, a Danish-born Muslim of Palestinian origin, has written a book about being Muslim in Denmark. He told Reuters he has received death threats.

“An environment has been created where you can say crazy things without too many people even raising an eyebrow,” said Hussein, who works as a lawyer.

“I and a lot of others from my generation feel that no matter what we do, we are not good enough in the eyes of society,” he added. “No matter how educated we are or how integrated we become, we are not good enough because of our skin colour or our religion.”

The number of racially or religiously motivated hate crimes registered by Danish police jumped to 365 in 2017 from 228 the year before. That could be higher as not all cases are reported.

The Danish Institute For Human Rights has urged politicians to draw up plans to combat racism and hate crimes, especially against Muslims and Jews.

“The politicians are moving very close to the boundaries of human rights,” said Louise Holck, the institute’s deputy director.

Denmark’s 320,000 Muslims are about 5.5 percent of the population, a slightly higher proportion than in the rest of Europe, according to Danish and U.S. estimates.

The shift to the right by Denmark’s mainstream parties runs counter to outsiders’ traditional views of liberal Scandinavia, but has its parallels elsewhere in Europe, particularly since large numbers of migrants arrived there in 2015.

CAKE

The immigration minister, Inger Stojberg, has meanwhile been criticised for celebrating her 50th piece of legislation tightening immigration laws with a big cake. A tracker on the ministry’s website shows immigration law has been tightened 114 times under the present government.

Earlier this year, the government passed a law that would mean more refugees could be repatriated, the latest move to discourage non-western immigration.

The law was passed with support from the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, a key ally of the minority government, and the Social Democrats, the country’s biggest party, which has hitherto had a softer stance on immigration.

It means residence permits for refugees will be temporary, there will be a limit on the number of family reunifications, and a cut in benefits for immigrants.

The law has been criticised by the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the United Nations refugee agency. Trade organisations and unions have warned that tight immigration policies could worsen labour shortages and put a brake on growth.

Fuglede of the Liberal Party said lower benefits would encourage people to work.

Around 43% of refugees who have lived in Denmark for more than 3 years were employed by the end of 2018, up from just 20% by the end of 2015. However, only 19% of women had jobs compared to 57% of men.

But while employment has risen, assimilation of immigrants has not always kept pace. More young men descended from non-western immigrants commit crimes than Danes, official figures show.

HISTORY BOOKS

The Social Democrats declined to comment for this article because of a tight pre-election schedule, but they have repeatedly said they want to limit the number refugees.

“You are not a bad person, just because you are worried about immigration,” party leader Mette Frederiksen said earlier this month.

With the mainstream parties toughening up on immigration, Denmark’s biggest populist group, The Danish People’s Party (DF) has lost some of its appeal and opinion polls show it is likely to shed almost half of its voters in the election.

This is partly because voters are moving to the Social Democrats. DF also faces competition from far-right parties the New Right and Hard Line, the latter a new grouping that wants Islam banned and Muslims deported.

But even though the DF is losing voters fast, its impact on Danish politics is undeniable.

“They have completely changed the discussion and politics in Denmark over the past 20 years,” according to Rune Stubager, professor of political science at Aarhus University. “For the history books, this is definitely a big victory for them.”

Source: Danish Muslims feel backlash as immigration becomes election issue

Danish Prime Minister’s Son’s Girlfriend Causes Immigration Debate

Examples such as this, particularly with respect to Europeans, Americans and others of European ancestry, illustrate that policies targeted to visible minority immigrants and citizens, also impact on those not deemed to be a “problem:”

The son of Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen has been tripped up by the country’s strict immigration laws, which will force his Harvard-educated American girlfriend to leave Denmark by the end of this month.

The development thrusts immigration policy into the spotlight as Danes prepare to vote in national elections on June 5. Rasmussen, 55, leads a center-right minority coalition that rules with the support of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party. Last week, he stunned the country’s political establishment by announcing he would rather abandon some of his traditional supporters on the far right than let their “extreme opinions” influence his politics.

In a debate broadcast by TV2 on Sunday evening, Rasmussen said that his 29-year-old son, Bergur, is being forced to split temporarily with his girlfriend, because she’s too young to seek residence under Danish immigration laws.

The young woman, whose name and precise age weren’t revealed, is under 24 and therefore not eligible to remain in Denmark following the 2002 passage of a law that was intended to stop residents, particularly from non-Western countries, from bringing in child brides. It’s since become a key plank in the country’s broader efforts to stem immigration. A student at Harvard University, she’s been in Denmark as part of her studies, Rasmussen said.

In response, Mette Frederiksen, head of the opposition Social Democrats, said the rule carries “a price” and rejected efforts to soften it. Most polls show Frederiksen, who has embraced tough immigration policies since taking over her party, will win next month’s election.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said he backs a revision of the Schengen agreement, so that the current arrangement enabling passport-free travel across Europe is tightened. Rasmussen told TV2 that Denmark “needs to look after our borders, and that’s why we need to develop a new Schengen regime that gives us more political autonomy over our own borders.”

After 2015, when the Syrian refugee crisis hit, Denmark introduced a series of temporary border controls. Rasmussen’s Liberal Party now wants Europe to consider allowing member states to make such controls permanent.

Source: Danish Prime Minister’s Son’s Girlfriend Causes Immigration Debate

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