Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Jens-André P. Herbener
Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Royal Danish Police apologise: "immigrants" were "native Danish criminals"
According to (DR) Danish state television's email newsletter 08.12.99, the Royal Danish Police have apologised for a report published in September, which erroneously informed about immigrant crime on the island of Funen: "The report referred to the devastation caused by a group of 10-15 immigrants in the Assens police district. These 'immigrants' were in fact 100% native Danish criminals."
On the 07.12.99, the Minister for Justice received a statement on the matter from the Royal Danish Police with the following acknowledgement: "The summarisation, as far as Assens police district is concerned, is laden with obvious mistakes, which the Royal Danish Police must apologise for."
National Employment Service (AF) violates law in favour of employers who refuse to employ non-Danes
Any and every form of discrimination based on race, skin colour or ethnic extraction is forbidden according to Danish law (no.459 of 12.6.96). A circular from the National Labour Market Authority (Arbejdsmarkedsstyrelsen) makes it clear that the law also applies to the Employment Service's job allocation activities. The Employment Service, therefore, must not supply labour to employers who set conditions that exclude people because of their ethnic ancestry. A journalist with the tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet contacted 13 different Employment Service offices, posing as an employer wishing to employ a job seeker, while at the same time pointing out that this individual must be of Danish extraction. The results were published on the 08.12.99 and showed that all of the 13 Employment Service offices contacted acted illegally by not refusing to assist the fictitious employer as they are required to by law, and that only two of the offices refused to be a part of such obvious discrimination.
Police accommodation - or police glorification
During a conference at the Danish House of Parliament (Christiansborg) the 11.11.99, under the theme "violence and crime", the Minister for Justice Frank Jensen, stressed the point that crime figures in Denmark for the year 1999 were the lowest in 13 years. Nevertheless, in December 1999, the police were allocated an extra 2.4 billion crowns (c. 290 million $) over the succeeding four years. The accommodation was reached between the government, the Center-Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the Conservative People's Party - and the Socialist People's Party.
This appropriation of funds, when soberly appraised, can only be viewed as a political strategy, considering the success, especially of the right wing, in convincing the population that there is a problem with violence and crime, which has absolutely no basis in reality.
Senior lecturer and social scientist at Aalborg University, Johannes Andersen comments: "There is now a widespread assumption among the population that something is drastically amiss, and something which the Social-Democratic Party and the government are obliged to address. Thus, the accommodation reached and the extra billions to the police, is a signal that the government is now trying to restore confidence, especially with regard to the elderly who are the most fearful and who to a large degree vote for the Social Democrats. And it is exactly this element of fear that induces politicians to act instinctively. Thus, viewed in relation to the Danish People's Party's rise in the poles, a party which also appeals to the elderly, the allocation of extra funds is not surprising (...) But the point being, that this has nothing to do with reality - it has to do with a central group of voters perception of reality. That's what this accommodation is all about." (Berlingske Tidende, 19.12.99).
Registration and surveillance is introduced gradually by special law
The Danish Ministry of Taxation is working towards introducing a demand for compulsory notification of private people's names and addresses when they purchase for an amount in excess of 5.000 crowns (c. 600 $), enabling the state to control whether or not the individual concerned has a consumption that can be supported by his or her private economy - or if there are any possible indications of tax avoidance.
Legal expert for The Danish Consumer Council, Mette Reissmann, fears for consumer's anonymity: "It is frightening, that the anonymity and private lives of consumers in the public domain is restricted to such a degree with the gradual introduction of new laws. This is just one example of the creeping registration and surveillance brought about by the introduction of special laws. The registration of consumer's names and addresses for the sole purpose of assisting the fight against tax evasion is tantamount to violation of one's integrity." (Berlingske Tidende, 11.12.99).
The Danish Ministry of the Interior calls for municipal surveillance of private addresses
The Ministry of the Interior's Central Office of Civil Registration (the CPR-Office), is calling for municipalities to act as police forces by monitoring citizens at their private addresses if there is suspicion of social security fraud.
In a letter, the Ministry calls for "up to several observations to be taken of the residence at the 'remotest times' of the day" (Politiken, 12.12.99). These observations take the form of amongst other things, private visits, where for example, a municipal employee shows up on the doorstep to personally investigate if a divorced husband has in fact moved from his former wife and is not registered as being single for the sole purpose of fraudulently receiving extra social security benefits.
Departmental director at the Danish School of Journalism and expert in administrative law, Oluf Jørgensen comments to Politiken: "The control visits infringe so much upon the individual's right to privacy that the municipalities must not camouflage them, or acquire access to private homes under alternative pretences, e.g. with a 'change of address order'. Having no legal basis, the control visits are a voluntary affair for the citizen. And if the municipality's people come calling, then they must make it clear that citizens do have the right to refuse them entry, so that the visit takes place with the informed consent of the individual or individuals concerned. Even so, I'm not sure if the municipalities have any right whatsoever to do this."
Anne Baastrup from the Socialist People's Party (SF) points out, that the dwelling's inviolability enshrined in the constitution is being violated, and that the municipalities are taking on the role of the police: "We are of course opposed to social security fraud, but control must not be imposed at any price. The legal rights of the individual are greater as far as the police are concerned than they are in relation to the municipalities." (Politiken, 13.12.99).
Information informs the 14.01.00, that the municipality of Esbjerg has already decided to employ a "professional peeping Tom" who will "expose social security fraudsters" on a full-time basis. Regarding the description "professional peeping Tom", Ejnar Bogut, who has acquired the position, says: "In this way, people know exactly what it is I do."
Case-handlers down-prioritise difficult clients
Rikke Posborg, foreman for the Danish association on social politics (Socialpolitisk Forening) and social worker in the Vesterbro quarter of Copenhagen comments: "It's like as if a filter is created between the case-handler and the difficult client. This makes communication difficult and that is something one should be aware of." (Aktuelt, 23.12.99).
She points out that clients who are not "easy" run a greater risk than others of having their cases inadequately dealt with, and are in greater danger of being evicted from their apartments without either advice or support. Posborg has knowledge of cases where people have been evicted from their homes because of rental arrears totalling a mere 60, 100 or 200 crowns (c. 7.3, 12 and 24 $ respectively). "The way in which this happens today is an expression of brutal treatment. It is an embarrassment for society that it hasn't reacted in some way to help these people."
Increased homelessness amongst ethnic minorities
There is a steady increase in the number of homeless people in Denmark's cities with immigrant or refugee backgrounds. Berlingske Tidende writes the 14.12.99: "In 'The Men's Home' (Mændenes Hjem) a hostel for homeless men with 81 beds, 42% of the occupants have immigrant or refugee backgrounds and are on average five years younger than the Danish occupants, i.e. 25-30 years old. At the YMCA hostel in the Islands Brygge area of Copenhagen with room for 76 people, 60% of the present occupants are either refugees or immigrants."
Robert Olsen, who is responsible for "The Men's Home", comments: "Things have developed so quickly over the last few years. Their numbers are increasing steadily and their problems are becoming more intractable. Each one of these occupants will in all likelihood continue their social downward spiral with ever increasing problems. And there is every reason to believe that we are witnessing the first symptoms of one of the major social problems of the future. If something is not done about it we are going to see the marginalisation of even greater numbers of homeless immigrants and refugees than is the case today." (Aktuelt, 13.12.99).
The so-called "citizen's-account" is ready - the combining of 20 public registers
Municipal Data Ltd. (Kommunedata) have developed the so-called "citizen's account" (borgerkonto), a new computer system, which combines 20 public registers. In September 1998 the government sanctioned "The common municipal system - Payments overview" (Det fælleskommunale system - Ydelsesoversigt) as a component of the "citizen's account", which means that the municipalities get simultaneous access to 20 registers, giving them an overview of all public payments to individuals.
A similar system was discussed in 1980, but was strongly opposed by amongst others, the "Danish General Workers Union" (SiD), who saw it as unnecessary surveillance and unwarranted casting of suspicion. These days however, the Union's tone is somewhat different. Per Christensen, the Union's legal consultant comments: "We no longer see this as a problem. We are also interested in preserving the legitimate unemployment system. It has to work, and people have to have confidence in it." (Politiken, 14.12.99).
Snitch and surveillance society
Ekstra Bladet has brought to light a bill which the government is working on that will give employers access to information concerning the private circumstances of 2.5 million Danes. The newspaper writes the 04.12.99: "The government, by introducing a bill on personal data, is preparing to make it possible for the social authorities to release information concerning everybody's, entirely personal circumstances, to private and public employers. Medical and health details are excluded, but employers can be told for example; that an employee's wife had sought refuge in a centre for abused women, that their child had been expelled from school and that the employee themselves, had three charges for shoplifting withdrawn as a juvenile. The government is obliged to work a EU-directive into the Danish legislation, and this does not regard 'significant social problems' and 'criminal history' as 'sensitive information'."
Consequently, the confidentiality between for example, the social authorities and their clients is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Public employers can, on their own authority, gain access to the private information of employees, while employers in the private sector require the "consent" of the individual concerned - which can for example, be acquired in connection with a job interview, where it is implied or understood that this consent is a necessary condition of employment. Although the social authorities are not obliged to surrender the requested information, they can however, as opposed to earlier, opt to do so if they so wish.
Departmental director at the Danish School of Journalism, Oluf Jørgensen, comments to the newspaper: "As things stand at the moment, this gives the employers a very unpleasant and disagreeable instrument for the purpose of sorting people. As it is obvious, that anybody attending a job interview will give their consent for their social circumstances to be investigated. The employer gains insight into whatever family problems the applicant might have with regard to both spouse and children, and they also gain insight into a wide range of other personal details, form the school psychologist, the social authorities or the county administration."
Marianne Jelved, government minister and member of the Social Liberal Party, wishes to expand on the establishment of a surveillance society by making it possible for the various departments of a concern, e.g. a life assurance company, credit institution, bank, estate agent or the like, to pass on "usual information" to a central register in the concern's mother company, according to Ekstra Bladet the 11.01.00. But the term "usual information" has not been defined. The newspaper names at random: All of the individual's accounts with the company; bills which have not been paid on time; credit accounts which have been overdrawn; whether the individual has a criminal record; his or her use of prescription medicine; health status in connection with an application for life assurance; family conflicts involving public authorities, e.g. children taken into care; religious or ethnic background etc. "They can register any and all information, which comes into their possession," writes the newspaper.
The new register will more or less replace the existing credit information business, RKI Kredit Information A/S. But the difference between this and other information agencies of the present, is that the new register will not come under public control, and the rules regarding for example; when information on old debts should be deleted, as well as the right to be informed that one is registered, do not apply to the new register.
"Consent" is still the central point, but it is not specified in which way this "consent" should be acquired - and is a verbal agreement sufficient. "Then we are left with the customer's word against the word of two bank employees," emphasises Ole Sohn, spokesperson for the Socialist People's Party (Ekstra Bladet, 12.1.00). Frank Aaen from the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), comments to the same newspaper: "The big companies can follow every move we make. And likewise, the Danish Police Intelligence Services can access the very same information."
Marianne Jelved explains to Ekstra Bladet the 19.1.00: "The bank-law is about being able to enforce an actual supervision of businesses, in an attempt to prevent a new Hafnia-case or a new Baltica-case (...) The goal is to protect both venture capital, competition and a financial sector, which is safe for all customers." The idea is, that the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) can acquire insight into a company's total risk factor, enabling danger-signals to be detected in time. With regard to the reasonably severe consequences this monitoring of businesses and securing of "venture capital" has on the right of privacy, Marianne Jelved comments: "There is no suggestion of any such thing in the bank law." However, the point, which the minister fails to comment upon, is the apparent lack of provision in the law to prevent it.
In addition, Minister for Justice Frank Jensen has proposals of his own to augment the level of registration. Marketing industry lobbyists have managed to influence a EU directive, which now must be implemented through Danish legislation. It entails giving businesses the right to keep a register of customer profiles, which can be used for marketing purposes. The conditions for receiving various rebate arrangements or member-bonus cards etc. could be that the customer is required to give his or her consent for a record of their purchasing habits to passed on to others. "If, while wishing to rent a video for a quite evening's entertainment at home, one refuses to sign a contract which contains a consent clause, than one must return home to one's partner empty handed and make other plans. The next time the contract will be signed," says Dr. of Law Peter Blume, expert in registry legislation, to Ekstra Bladet the 19.01.00. "It is no longer solely a question of passing on information which informs others that I am a wine purchaser, but also that my consumption is so high that I must be regarded as an alcoholic. If I rent a "sadomasochist" video, it is ´possible for the information to be used in marketing and advertisements targeted directly at me. If I buy sugar-free produce, I will be registered as a diabetic," he explains.
To emphasise the prevailing drift towards a "snitch and surveillance society", one can mention the persistence of the Danish Minister of the Interior, Thorkild Simonsen, in proposing that it should be compulsory by law, under threat of punishment, for people to snitch on their neighbours (Ekstra Bladet, 27.01.00). It is already the situation in all cases, where Danish people receive social welfare assistance, in the law concerning work-related injuries and in the legislation regarding the illegal entry of aliens into the country, that all those "who have knowledge of the circumstances" are duty-bound to supply the authorities with the information they demand. Thorkild Simonsen's next move has to do with cases where one's neighbour might possibly be cheating with his or her registered address. If you refuse to "cooperate with the authorities", i.e. snitch on your neighbour, you can be summoned before a court to testify under oath, running the risk punishment for making a false statement, or be thrown in jail, "until your tongue has loosened" as the newspaper puts it.
The Danish Liberal Party (Venstre) wants to deprive immigrants of all social security payments for the first seven years
"The impression among the Danish population that Denmark is an especially attractive destination for immigrants and asylum seekers, is simply not true," writes Berlingske Tidende the 07.01.00. Figures from the EU's statistics office Eurostat, show that net immigration to Denmark has fallen since 1998, and that with a net immigration of 1.9 per 1,000 inhabitants, Denmark is positioned under Switzerland, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Great Britain and not least Norway and Ireland, who have corresponding figures of 4.3 and 5.0 respectively.
"The EU's figures confirm the need for immigration if Europe's population is not to age quickly," writes the newspaper and continues: "In 1999 the birth rate in Western Europe was the lowest ever since the Second World War ...".
That the debate in Denmark is nonetheless concerned with methods of reducing immigration (which in practice means the unification of family members, as Denmark has had a moratorium on immigration for years), says more about the political climate in Denmark than any actual "problem". In addition, this whipped up climate also manifests itself in the form of a long list of proposals to tighten the already stringent legislation in this area.
Leader of the Danish Liberal Party (Venstre) Anders Fogh Rasmussen is prepared to break with fundamental principles of law, in order to limit the number of people entering the country as a result of "family unification". It is proposed that new immigrants (united family members) should be refused the right to all social security benefits such as, subsistence allowance, rent allowance and children's allowance, for the first seven years after their arrival in Denmark. In deference to international conventions the rules should, on paper, apply to everybody; Danish and EU citizens as well as immigrants and refugees, but the Liberal Party leader will introduce exceptions so that only the last two groups are affected. "If they want to remain here, then they will have to provide for themselves," says Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Berlingske Tidende (30.12.99).
The proposal is criticised in Jyllands-Posten by several legal experts, as being in direct contravention of a number EU rules, and not least the Danish Constitution, more specifically § 75, part 2: "Any person unable to support himself or his dependants shall, where no other person is responsible for his or their maintenance, be entitled to receive public assistance, provided that he shall comply with the obligations imposed by statute in such respect."
"If a person is a legal resident of Denmark, then it is their constitutional right to receive economic support at subsistence level," says professor of law, Jens Vedsted-Hansen to Jyllands-Posten the 07.01.00. His analysis is supported in the same newspaper by amongst others, professor and expert in social law Kirsten Ketscher, who elaborates: "The European Court of Justice, has up to now, come down hard on this type of discrimination (...) If the proposal is to be viable than we have two possibilities. Either we do away with all of our social security benefits. Or else we can change the constitution, as well as denouncing all the treaties and agreements that we have with other countries." Other experts in European law that Jyllands-Posten has spoken to confirm this analysis.
"I have no intention of allowing myself to be tyrannised by the opinion's of various legal experts," was the Liberal leader's reaction to Jyllands-Posten.
The government parties themselves are also working hard to accommodate the criticism of the "all too many" cases of family-unification, which in reality are quite few compared with other European countries. The Social Liberal Party's (Radikale Venstre) spokesperson on alien affairs, Henrik Svane proposes that foreigners should be a required to have had Danish citizenship for a period of between three to five to five years, before they can be allowed to bring their families to Denmark (Politiken, 01.01.00). The Human Rights Commissioner for the Baltic Sea region Ole Espersen emphasizes that the European Convention on Human Rights is in fact bound to the individual and not to any particular citizenship, according to Politiken the 04.01.00.
If the proposal is adopted it will involve the abolition of the legal right to be united with one's family members, something the Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti) has long agitated for. Foreigners have the possibility of applying for and receiving Danish citizenship - "citizenship by naturalisation" - according to the Constitution. This is a legislative procedure whereby the name of each naturalised person is listed; in this way it is the parliament that has the final and independent decision on whether naturalisation should take place or not. A person does not have an automatic legal right to obtain citizenship by naturalisation - not even when they fulfil all the usual requirements. Of these requirements can be named; uninterrupted residence in the country for a period of seven years (calculated form the date of issue of one's residence permit, though this requirement can be dropped for certain categories of people); the absence of excessive debt to the authorities or state; the ability to speak and understand Danish as well as "impeccable conduct", i.e. a clean criminal record (source: www.familieadvokaten). The precise rules concerning naturalisation can be found in a circular from the Ministry for Justice, no. 132 of the 03.10.97, which can be accessed at: www.retsinfo.dk/_GETDOC/ACCN/C19970013209-REGL.
The rules surrounding the right to family unification were last tightened in July of 1998, and they assert that in order for a person to be united with their spouse, it is necessary for the individual to have had a permanent residence permit for a period of not less than three years, but a permanent residence permit can only be issued to an individual who has legally resided in the country, with a temporary residence permit, for the preceding three years (source: Aktuelt, 06.01.00); as far as asylum seekers are concerned, one can certainly add to this the one and a half years that can elapse before they are able acquire a temporary residence permit. Altogether, a waiting time of at least six to seven and a half years.
If the proposal on citizenship is adopted, it will - as well as abolishing the genuine legal right to be united with one's family - possibly lead to the prolongation of the period of time a "foreigner" has to wait before he or she is entitled to apply for the right to be permanently united with their spouse and "children" on Danish soil, all things considered, between 11 to 14 years (the amount of time it takes for the authorities just to process an application for citizenship is estimated at present to be 22 months [source www.familieadvokaten.dk], and therefore the tally can be listed as follows: Six to seven years with a residence permit, almost two years for an application for citizenship to be processed, and three to five years with citizenship, before a family can be united in Denmark).
The debate has not least been driven by the criticism of and the demand for a tightening of the existing rules in relation to family unification, which has come from a succession of social democratic mayors in the western municipalities of Greater Copenhagen, and this despite the fact that only one of the aforementioned mayors is able to document a rise in the number of cases of family unification last year, while three others have actually recorded a decline (Information, 05.01.00). As the result of proposals from the mayors of the Greater Copenhagen municipalities of Brøndby, Høje Taastrup, Ishøj and Herlev, the government's new "aliens package" is to include the requirement that a person wishing to bring their spouse or family member into the country should have their own home of "suitable" dimensions (Berlingske Tidende, 04.01.00 and 10.02.00).
One of the more insidious side effects of this proposal, which has hardly gone unnoticed by the government, the mayors and the rest of their supporters, is that the rules - as far as public housing is concerned - quite simply prevent any eventual applicant from fulfilling the requirement. (Politiken, 19.01.00): It is only possible to receive a family apartment (sign the contract) at the moment the family is actually physically present in the country, and this can not happen until the applicant has signed the contract for a family apartment ...
The social democratic mayor of Brøndby, Kjeld Rasmussen is enthusiastic: "This will simply plug the leak. The vast majority of applicants will never be able to meet the demand with regard to accommodation," was his comment to Berlingske Tidende (12.02.00), according to which he describes the government's alien's package as an "historic milestone in Danish history", which straight away, will drastically reduce the number of bilingual people in the municipality.
Furthermore, the municipalities have to a large degree, ceased the construction of public housing in order to avoid "resource deficient persons", as they are euphemistically referred to, so that the construction of public housing in Denmark is at its lowest level for thirty years. And waiting lists are getting longer and longer (Berlingske Tidende, 18.01.00).
Leader of the Conservative People's Party, Bendt Bendtsen, proposes the introduction of a segregation system, so that only persons who can "contribute to Danish society" are granted permission to be united with a parent or spouse in Denmark; e.g. highly educated young people or people with business skills etc.: "It's quite simply a question of having the courage to say that there are differences between people. And it is for this reason that we should differentiate between them. I propose therefore, that we introduce a well-defined system of individual assessment, to find out if the people who wish to come here can contribute to Danish society. If not, then they don't get in," (Berlingske Tidende den 09.01.00).
The Conservative's spokesperson on political affairs describes the proposal as a "contribution to the debate" and is not of the opinion that the party will present the proposal in parliament (Jyllands-Posten, 20.01.00). Bendt Bendtsen will moreover - in a similar manner to Pia Kjærsgaard, leader of the Danish People's Party - completely abolish "family unification" for de facto refugees, this he will do by quite simply denying refugees their legal right to a residence permit (which is normally granted after a period of three years) and instead let them remain as being "tolerated" in the country, though without the usual rights (Berlingske Tidende, 04.01.00). And without a residence permit, no family unification ...
Furthermore, there have been suggestions of uniting families in some other place besides Denmark (Conservatives) and of "distribution by quota", i.e. the forced settlement of newly united families to avoid the establishment of areas with large concentrations of "foreigners" (Social Democrats). And what is more, the government has plans to introduce a limit on the number of people allowed to reside in a single dwelling, as this can contribute to limiting the number of family unifications by increasing the applicant's financial burden with regard to accommodation, making it more difficult for he or she to live up to the requirement of being able to provide for one's eventual spouse (Politiken, 01.01.00).
An additional component of the government's "alien's package" is the intention to abolish the legal right of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 to family unification, as well forcing young couples to prove, that their marriage is one of mutual consent, if a marriage partner is to be allowed to co-habit with the consort of his or her choice in Denmark (source: Information, 12-13.02.00). The prestidigitation of this proposal lies in the fact that a refusal to permit the unification of a marriage partner with their spouse in Denmark, can now be justified by asserting that the resident part has been subjected to "cultural pressure": "It is of course, completely impossible to define the concept 'cultural pressure' (...) I'm sure that all of those marriages where Danish girls get hitched to foreign men, will have no problem being accepted. They will find it quite easy to bare the burden of proof, as they could not possibly be the victims of 'cultural pressure'. It's only people with black or dark skin who are subject to that type of thing," says Niels-Erik Hansen, lawyer with The Board for Ethnic Equality (Nævnet for Etnisk Ligestilling) to Information.
Imran Hussain, foreman for Ethnic Youth (Etnisk Ungdom) experiences the eternal debate - with themes such as tougher sentences, forced education, accommodation dispersal and now tougher rules regarding family unification - as yet another bucket of cold water in his face: "It is beginning to dawn on us that whatever we do is not good enough. Irrespective of whether we speak fluent Danish, get an education and learn the succession of Danish Kings by heart, we are not accepted. We feel that we are psychically raped 24 hours a day. What is it that the politicians as well as those extremely vocal mayors want? Should we go around with a hotdog in the one hand and a beer in the other? (...) they come with the one supercilious proposal after the other. Is it proper to treat immigrants differently than other citizens in this country?" (Politiken, 04.01.00).
Public opinion as well as the trend setting politicians appear to be believe that it is.
Muharrem Aydas, foreman for the Danish Umbrella Organisation for Ethnic Minorities (POEM) is shaken: "It's seemingly an endless torrent. We already have the world's toughest laws for foreigners, and now they are going to be tightened even more. I don't know when it's going to stop. That type of proposal creates a lot of insecurity amongst the ethnic minorities concerning their everyday lives and their future. They ask themselves what the next step might be. Many have their doubts about how much energy they should use in adjusting themselves to Danish society when they are not sure about what type of future they might have." (Information, 31.12.99)
In Dialog2, a club for young people, they are approaching a state of total resignation a result of the smear campaign that immigrants are subjected to. The club's general secretary Sajizi Demirkiran, comments to the same newspaper: "We are really distressed. Some of the girls just sit there in our club and cry. It is so strange that we cannot be accepted."
Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti) in add campaign against Muslims
The Society for the Integration of New-Danes into the Workplace (Foreningen til Integration af Nydanskere på Arbejdsmarkedet) ran a series of full-page adverts to counteract the comparatively high level of unemployment amongst immigrants in Denmark, some of which had pictures of Danes from the country's ethnic minorities with the caption: "When I become Christian, I want to be a nurse."
In reply to this initiative, the Danish People's Party inserted a full-page advert in Jyllands-Posten the 30.01.00, with a picture of a homeless person followed by the caption: "When I become a Muslim, I want to get an apartment." The implication being, that it is supposedly easier for Muslims to find a place to live in Denmark than it is for others. The ad goes on to say that it is "improper" to keep "Danes and Christians" out of the housing market, and concludes by asking: "How Muslim does one have to be, in order to get a place to live?"
However, there is in fact a comparatively far greater level of homelessness amongst immigrants and foreigners then there is amongst ethnic Danes. According to the social board of appeals (Sociale Ankestyrelse), almost 30% of occupants in hostels and shelters for homeless people in Copenhagen, Odense, Aalborg and Aarhus are of foreign extraction, and country wide the figure is at 11% (see also section above: "Increased homelessness amongst ethnic minorities").
In the meantime, leader of the Danish People's Party, Pia Kjærsgaard, defends the advert: "I'm well aware of the fact that one doesn't have to be a Muslin in order to get a place to live, and that Muslims do not have priority in the allocation of apartments. But refugees do have priority according to the law on integration, and there is positive treatment. And many of these refugees are Muslins (...) It is satire, but I will continue to maintain that it does contain an element of truth." (Jyllands-Posten, 01.02.00).
One of the many people, surprised by this sudden show of concern for the homeless, is the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, Jytte Andersen, who cannot recall the Danish People's Party ever exhibiting such solidarity before: "Pia Kjærsgaard could have demonstrated her warm feelings for the homeless by voting for that section of last years budget, which allocated 30 million crowns (c. 3.6 million $) to the homeless. This she did not do however," explains the minister to Jyllands-Posten (30.01.00).
Homeless people are in fact quite alone with their problem. "When nobody else will, then we do it ourselves." Says Michael Rasmussen to Politiken (18.01.00). Michael was himself homeless at one stage and is now spokesperson for the newly established Union of Homeless Friends (Foreningen af Hjemløses Venner af 1999). The union was recently responsible for the purchase of two mobile sheds in an effort to secure emergency shelter for, at the very least, 10 to 12 of the capital's homeless. There are plans to acquire up to 30 mobile sheds with room in each for three bunk beds. There have been no reports of help or support offered by Pia Kjærsgaard for the project.
Ill-fated train journey leads to deportation of 23 year-old Somalian
In Socialistisk Information's issue no. 138 of January 2000, one can read about the following episode, which was reported in the regional publication, Dagbladet Holstebro-Struer: "A row over a supplementary ticket charge of 25 crowns (c.3 $) for a train journey, sealed the fate of a 23 year-old Somalian youth. Not in Somalia. But in the Danish town of Strur. He was taking the train with a couple friends. They were late and did not make to buy their tickets at the station before the train pulled away. These they would buy on the train. And it was here that a supplementary ticket charge became the subject of an argument between the train conductor and the young Somalian. At one point, the young man kicked out after the door of the conductor's compartment, but in his clumsiness kicked the conductor instead, and from that point on his fate was sealed. The police were called and he was charged with 'assault on a public servant in the course of his duty'. According to the newspaper Dagbladet Holstebro-Struer, he received a forty-day jail sentence from the Danish High Court, which was a toughening of the 30-day sentence received from a lower court. But as well as jail time he was sentenced to be deported from the country for a period of five years."
Information writes the 18.02.00: "the body for determining the allocation of free process, (Procesbevillingsnævnet) has granted Anne Grethe Kampmann, counsel for the 23 year-old, the right to appeal the case to the Supreme Court."
It is a well-known fact that love does not recognises any borders. There are 42,000 foreigners in Denmark in so-called duo-national marriages with Danish partners (Berlingske Tidende, 12.01.00).
And this of course, is highly suspicious.
When a Danish citizen marries a foreigner, they have the right to bring their spouse to Denmark, although there is a waiting period of between three to five months, which is the length of time it takes the Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) to "process" the case. Following this, a minimum of three years has to pass before a permanent residence permit can be issued to the newly married foreigner. And if for example, the Danish marriage partner dies before the three years have passed, then it's "out". If a duo-national couple that have been married for, let us say 15 years, travel abroad and remain out the country for longer than one year, then they must start the whole procedure again from the beginning when they return. Furthermore, the duo-national couple must live under close surveillance by the authorities, which avail themselves of their right to show up at the couple's home at will, e.g. 5.30 in the morning, to satisfy themselves that the two are actually living together as a married couple. They check the bedroom, investigate cupboards and closets, examine the dirty washing and ask intimate questions etc. The couple are under no obligation to answer these questions, but are told, that "they run the risk of it having a negative influence on their case if there is a deficiency of information" explains Jørgen Tagg, from the police's Aliens Division (Den centrale Politiafdeling) to the above-mentioned newspaper.
"The Danish Immigration Services claim that the police do not visit anybody without a well-founded suspicion (...) But [we] were never told what the suspicion was based on. It was a very strange and unpleasant experience (...) It would have shown a certain amount of decency if they had handed us a letter the first time they came, explaining what the problem was and why they were there. And afterwards, write to tell us that the case had been closed and that we need not expect any more visits. After all we are not criminals, but we are treated that way," explains Lars Otved Jørgensen, who is married to a woman from East Africa and therefore has had three visits in a row from the police within the space of a few days.
Foreman for the association Marriage without Borders (Ægteskab uden Grænser) Kenneth Wilson, comments to the same newspaper: "It is humiliating for everybody concerned and a waste of police time and resources. The association has often tried to get definite figures on how many pro-forma marriages are exposed a result of these control visits, but the Danish Immigration service will not disclose the figures. According to our own information, there have been four cases out of almost 1,000 control visits on married couples in the Copenhagen municipality of Frederiksberg over the last four years."
One's demise, the other's bread and butter
Within the space of the last few months, the social-democratic Minister for Health, Carsten Kock, has dismissed a proposal for "fixing rooms" where drug-users can take their drugs in a peaceful and secure environment - but has supported the establishment of a "causality department" where the severe consequences of "bad fixes" can be treated. He has dismissed heroin trials, but recommends intravenous methadone (Politiken, 16.01.00). At the same time, a large majority in the Danish parliament, including the government, are ready to renew a law on coercion in the treatment of drug addicts, despite the fact that every last expert on the subject has described it as unusable (Politiken, 11.01.00).
It is all about sending the correct political signals. "Carsten Kock's argument is amongst other things, that he will not put his name to a proposal that signals a legalisation of the drug," according to Politiken den 16.01.00.
"To believe that one can get drug-users to stop taking drugs by sending clear signals, is to my mind starry-eyed and unrealistic," says Bachelor of Laws Jørgen Jepsen, leader of the Centre for Alcohol and Drugs Research (Center for Rusmiddelforskning), to the same newspaper. In any event, it is hardly likely that this signal is aimed at drug-users, but is on the other hand aimed at the rest of the electorate.
In the meantime, drug-users are dying on the streets at a rate of approximately 300 a year. And the vast majority of these deaths occur when drug-users consume their drugs in isolation, explains street-nurse Nina Brünés to Politiken. Fifty percent of them die of overdoses in public toilets, on the street or in doorways. At the same time, 9 out of 10 drug-users are infected with Hepatitis C, which can lead to cirrhoses and liver cancer. On top of this can be added the risk of having the illegal drug confiscated by the police, which stresses the drug-users into rushing their fixes, oftentimes resulting in chronic infections, abscesses, gangrene, amputated arms and legs, damaged blood vessels and infection of the heart valves, informs the newspaper. Conditions that without any great difficulty could be drastically improved upon, if it was not for the government's and Kock's "signals" as well as the inflexible Danish - and international - political principle that the use of narcotics is illegal and should be opposed.
Work is good for you ...
Which it seems can serve as a brief formulation of the ideology behind the government's activation policy. In the meantime, thousands of workers are worn out every year as a result of amongst other things, physically arduous monotonous routines or MRW (monotonous repetitive work). MRW is defined as work which involves performing the same movement 10-12 thousand times a day. Approximately 220,000 people perform this type of work every day in Denmark, according to Information the 06.01.00. Women are the worst affected
Last year, the Women Workers Union in Denmark (Kvindeligt Arbejderforbund) published the results of an investigation, which showed that 38 percent of the total number of women in the labour market are forced into early retirement, "frequently as a result of incurable joint pains," explains John Graversgaard, psychologist with the Department of Labour Supervision (Arbejdstilsynet) to the newspaper.
That it is predominantly women who are affected by MRW is documented by figures from the National Labour Market Authority (Arbejdsmarkedsstyrelsen), which show that there are twice as many women who complain of MRW related injuries, than men. "[The women] are assigned to MRW tasks where they have absolutely no influence on the job function - it is the machine or the assembly line that dictates the tempo," explains John Graversgaard.
The National Labour Market Authority, will to a large extent not recognise the women's occupational illnesses, and even though in 1993 the unions and employers, at the request of the government, advanced an left-handed plan of action to reduce by half the number of debilitating MRW jobs before the year 2000, it has shown "shamefully few results" as formulated by Thora Brendstrup of the General Workers Union (SiD), to the newspaper.
However, the government and Labour Minister Ove Hygum, have compiled a report portraying a far healthier image, with 27 % fewer MRW-jobs since 1990, while at the same time describing their own efforts as a success, informs Information. Although it is perhaps worth mentioning that employers were the only ones interviewed with regard to working conditions ... And in their opinion things are going incredibly well.
"The report's conclusions are so untrustworthy that it is almost unbelievable," says social worker Kit Astrup from Cooperation Workers Academics (Samarbejdet Arbejdere Akademikere), an organisation concerned with amongst other things work environment, to Information. Despite for example, that the textile industry has moved far more than half of its MRW jobs to Poland and the Baltic Countries (which the report completely fails to point out), the number of complaints regarding MRW injuries has nevertheless risen by 24 % in the period between 1993-97 alone.
With this ambiguous report in their possession, the government and Ove Hygum have absolved themselves from taking any action other than to encourage the continuation of the good work. And neither will the abolition of jobs as well as an increased number of people on "passive maintenance" do anything to enhance the statistics.
And besides, work is good for you ...
Human Rights in the way of "political desires"
The Danish Liberal Party (Venstre) is prepared to disregard basic human rights, "if it is shown that the conventions stand in the way of political desires", as expressed by the Liberal Party's spokesperson on legal matters, Birthe Rønn Hornbech to Jyllands-Posten the 26.01.00.
The "political desires" referred to are the intentions behind in the first instance, the so-called pusher law from 1996, whereby a foreigner who has been convicted of either possession or the sale of even the smallest amount of narcotics, can receive an extra punishment on top of the normal punishment in the form of banishment. These rules were tightened even further in 1998, making it possible to also banish foreigners who have been sentenced for other chosen types of criminality such as for example, severe violence, burglary, or the smuggling of human beings.
The problem for those parties that got the law adopted by parliament is that even though the courts have applied the new law diligently, by far the greater number of deportation cases which have come before the Supreme Court, were overruled with reference to the European Convention on Human Rights. Only two out of the ten narcotic cases reviewed by the Supreme Court up to now have resulted in an upholding of the deportation order (Jyllands-Posten, 22.01.00). A further 15 cases of banishment involving an unknown number of convicted individuals who have already been deported due to minor infractions of the narcotics legislation which carry only short sentences and where the conviction is more than one year old, must now be reviewed. "It is highly alarming that the entire system has functioned in this manner, and now the situation must be rectified by making it possible for these cases to be reviewed. The devisal of these deportation laws has created an intolerable situation," explains lawyer Gunnar Homann to the same newspaper. January the 17, 2000 saw the first two cases involving foreigners sentenced to deportation for non-drug related criminality to come before the Supreme Court - in both cases the sentences were overruled (Politiken 18.01.00).
One case involved a Somalian, resident in Denmark for almost eight years, who had been sentenced to 60 days detention - plus deportation from Denmark - for a bar fight. In the other case, a 27-year-old Pakistani was sentenced to two and a half years in prison - plus deportation - for robbery. The man has been living with his parents and siblings in Denmark for 23 years, and has no connection with Pakistan.
In both cases, the Supreme Court overruled the additional sentence of deportation with reference to "the demand for proportionality expressed in the European Convention on Human Rights, article eight", according to the judges' statement (Berlingske Tidende, 18.01.00). The demand for proportionality requires that there should be a reasonable relationship between the deportation order, the severity of the sentence, as well as the individual's affiliation to the country.
But this may not be the case for very much longer.
There is a massive problem of impoverishment amongst Immigrants, refugees and their descendents, writes Berlingske Tidende the 11.01.00.
Persons of foreign extraction have on average 30 percent fewer resources to live, to eat and to clothe themselves for each year than their Danish counterparts, informs the newspaper. For example, people who come from Bosnia-Herzegovina have an average of 43,161 crowns (c. 5,222 $) at their disposal each year, while the average disposable income of Danish people is more than double this figure at 102,055 crowns (c. 12,348 $.) Furthermore, the investigation reported by the newspaper, shows that even though the number of persons of non-Danish ethnicity outside the labour market is approaching 50 percent, compared with 20 percent for ethnic Danes, this does not entirely explain the gross economic imbalance between Danes and non-Danes. The investigation points out that both actively employed as well as unemployed persons of non-Danish backgrounds have far less money to live for than do their Danish counterparts.
The new Integration Act, which came into force on the 15 January 2000, introduced the concept of "reintegration payment", whereby foreigners who depart Denmark, will be eligible to a monthly payment of 3,000 crowns (c. 363 $) in their "homeland" for a period of five years (Berlingske Tidende, 10.01.00). And of course, the more impoverished and underprivileged foreigners become, the more distress they suffer due to the malicious and defamatory nature of the "public debate", the more stigmatised and demonised they become, the more interested they will be in accepting the "offer".
Harvesters of fear
In the space of three months, Denmark's most xenophobic, anti-immigrant and culturally jingoistic party, the Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti), has increased its number of paying members by 1500. The party now has over 5,000 members (Berlingske Tidende, 13.01.00). An opinion poll published in Politiken on the 23 January shows that if an election were held today the Danish People's Party would receive 15.4 percent of the total vote (an increase of almost 100 percent since the 1998 elections). The opinion poll also shows that one in three Danes (33 percent) have absolute or partial sympathy with the views of the Danish People's Party. The potential is there.
A European perspective of the extreme-right's rise in popularity does not paint a brighter picture. In Norway the Progress Party (Fremskridtspartiet) is the second largest party in parliament; the Vlaams Blok in Belgium received 10 percent of the vote last year; in Switzerland, the People's Party with 23 percent of the vote is the country's largest party and forms part of the government; in Austria, the Freedom Party is the second largest party with 27 percent of the vote and forms part of the government - to name but a few of those countries, besides Denmark, where the extreme right has established a solid parliamentary basis (source: Information, 10.02.00); the tendency seems clear
The tension is rising.
Police methods threaten press freedom
"I was standing with a little group of photographers at the corner, when a man in front of us throws a bottle at one of the police's vehicles. Two photographers standing close to me go forward, lift the man and drag him towards the police car. He resists and one of the photographers, disregarding his camera, draws a truncheon from his inside pocket and hits him." A description of an event which took place on New Years Eve as narrated by photographer Simon Bak in Ekstra Bladet the 19.01.00.
Have photographers taken to police work? No, but the police have obviously taken to disguising themselves as press photographers: "... we have to get rid of the trouble-makers one way or another," explains Copenhagen Police Commissioner Hanne Bech Hansen to the newspaper. "The most important thing for us is solving crime," says the Commissioner, but denies that the police portrayed themselves as press photographers, because they failed in an attempt to gain access to the presses' material on the disturbances in the Nørrebro quarter of the city on the 7 November last year.
Several press people have told Ekstra Bladet, that on New Years Eve they were asked if they were from the press or the police. "It'll end with that people won't have any way of telling whether it's the press or the police they are faced with (...) It makes our work impossible," explains Lars Lindskov, foreman for the Press Photographers Union.
"The most important thing for us is enforcement of the law," continues Hanne Bech Hansen, and as always efficiency has its price.
And the police do not intend to drop their new idea. Quite the contrary, according to Ekstra Bladet the 26.01.00, the police have in fact established a special department called "Task Force Charlie" for the specific purpose of video- and photographic surveillance of citizens.
On the 20.01.00, Ekstra Bladet tells the story of how the police turned up at a completely legal and peaceful demonstration in Berlin and photographed the Danish participants.
"The guy with the camera was taking pictures of everything that moved in the demonstration, and the two Danish police officers talked about how the should have registered the Danes that were present. At one point they were openly taking pictures of people from a Danish worker's union, who showed surprise at seeing Danish police officers in action in Germany," explains Morten Søndergaard, shop Steward with the Postal Worker's Union (Postarbejdernes fagforening) to the newspaper.
To the question of whether he could understand that the Danish participants suspected they were being illegally registered, Mogens Lauridsen of the police's emergency response unit (Beredskabspolitiet) answers: "That I can understand, but that's not what we told them to do. A crime has to have been committed before we can to take photographs and register people." He "promises that the pictures from the demonstration will not be used for the purpose of illegal registration." According to Mogens Lauridsen, the two officers were only in Berlin to study the arrest methods employed by the German police - at a lawful and peaceful demonstration.
Children forcefully taken into care on arbitrary basis
"The authorities show more interest in acquiring tougher measures to remove children from their families, than respecting the rules that are in place to ensure that events proceed in a proper manner," says lawyer Kirsten Bindstrup to Ekstra Bladet the 09.02.00. "The municipalities avail themselves of dubious psychological reports which give the impression of being commissioned. The parents are mot properly informed of their rights. It often comes as a total shock to them to discover that the local authorities have been working for months at building a case to facilitate the removal of their children (...) Sometimes there is no specification of what is required for the child to be allowed to return home again. And grandparents are never considered as possible foster-parents for crisis-stricken children, even though the law actually points to this obvious possibility," explains Kirsten Bindstrup, and further emphasises that in an increasing number of cases the municipalities set the stage for the forceful removal of children solely on the basis that the parents' intelligence is below average:
"When I got to see the case, it contained a psychological report which stated that the mother was intellectually impaired and illiterate. It stated directly that she bordered between being deficient and dim-witted, and that she could neither read nor write (...) Well, I had a new investigation conducted by a different psychologist - the only time I ever succeeded in getting the authorities to pay for an alternative investigation. The new investigation (...) showed that the mother was of normal intelligence and dyslexic ..." explains Kirsten Bindstrup. The two children, who had already been forcefully removed, were allowed to return to their home.
"Among cases, concerning five children, which the authorities were determined to remove by force, only one child could be removed after I and others got involved," writes Sonia Dahlgaard in the same newspaper. "One would think, that a reasonably well-ordered society would show the maximum of solicitude where the forceful removal of children is concerned. In the whole world, there is no intervention by the authorities, outside the penal code, which could be more serious."
Danish People's Party attempts to have The Torch forbidden
Issue no.14 of Faklen/The Torch, documents the way in which immigrants are threatened with everything from propaganda and legally enshrined discrimination, to explicit plans of mass deportation and armed "resistance" from the political right - not least from that section which is strongly associated with the Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti), i.e. the Christian fundamentalist magazine Tidehverv and the Danish Society (Danske Forening)
For the purpose of catching people's attention, the cover portrayed a pistol with a list of instructions on how, by entirely legal means, a person could acquire a firearm in Denmark by becoming a member of a gun club. The front-page text reads as follows: "Have we caught your attention? The Torch documents the escalating discrimination, propaganda and duplicity directed against immigrants from 1990-2000, and asks the question of to what extent this development will continue to escalate in the years 2000-2010, and whether it will become necessary for immigrants to consider making preparations - within the law - to defend themselves."
The article stresses, that if the extreme right comes to power and proceeds with its promised mass-deportation and/or its illegal "resistance fight against immigration" it can, at that time, become necessary for immigrants to defend themselves against such attacks. People can judge for themselves our documentation of this in Faklen/The Torch no.14 (as well as in the series of articles entitled "The New Right" focusing on Søren Krarup, the Danish Society (Danske Forening) and the Danish People's Party in Faklen/The Torch nos. 9, 11 and 13 respectively).
Furthermore, Faklen/The Torch no.14: also states: that "As we see it, events have not yet reached this point. And there is no logical reason whatsoever for the situation to develop in the direction of systematic ethnic cleansing, or that the escalation of discrimination and inequality must necessarily continue at the same pace in the coming decade as it has in the foregoing. Though what should be patently obvious is that the extreme right as well as other prominent conservatives and social democrats have without question long since overstepped the point where it is not unreasonable to fear, not "only" for the safety and future well-being of asylum seekers who have had their cases rejected, but also that resident immigrants might find themselves in a similar situation as for example, that of the Danish Jews during the Second World War." (Faklen/The Torch no.14 p.10)
On January 6, Ekstra Bladet published the story in large print on its front page, with advertisement billboards proclaiming: "Directions for refugees and immigrants: How to acquire a weapon." Through its editorial, Ekstra Bladet distanced itself from Faklen/The Torch, as did two other newspapers, JP-Aarhus and Aarhus Stiftstidende, though Ekstra Bladet's coverage was sober-minded, and both the background for, as well as the actual substance of the article was impartially elaborated.
The outcry came as expected from the extreme right in the form of the Danish People's Party (Dansk Folkeparti) and the Liberal Party of Denmark (Venstre), and less expected from the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), who were quick on the trigger and without having read the magazine, dismissed Faklen/The Torch's "pistol proposal", as if there had ever been such a thing.
However, the Red-Green Alliance soon stopped their attacks, not though the Liberal Party or the Danish People's Party. The latter issuing a press release with Member of Parliament Ole Donner, threatening to report the matter to the police: "Deputy foreman for the Parliamentary Committee on Culture Ole Donner, Danish People's Party, is now demanding, that state sponsorship of the extremely provocative Aarhus magazine, Faklen/The Torch, which they receive through the Ministry for Culture, be rescinded with immediate effect. The reason being, that the issue of Faklen/The Torch to be released on Friday, has detailed directions on how ethnic aliens in Denmark can acquire weapons for a future armed struggle and sabotage campaign against Danes. Ole Donner also wants the police to investigate any possible basis there might be for bringing charges against the Magazine's editor (...) Faklen/The Torch is indirectly encouraging the use of violence in the long term, says Ole Donner."
Faklen/The Torch receives on average, approximately 20,000 crowns (2,420 $) per annum from the Publication's Support Committee (Tidsskriftsstøtteudvalget), which is an independent committee under the Ministry for Culture.
On the 13.01.00, Inge Dahl-Sørensen of the Liberal Party, asked the Minister for Culture Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen whether Faklen/The Torch, "which gives instructions on how foreigners in Denmark can acquire firearms, for example pistols, by circumventing the law", fulfils the conditions required for receiving support from the committee in question.
Inge Dahl-Sørensen, gave as her motivation for the inquiry, not only the article from Faklen/The Torch no.14, but also the article "The New Right, 3: The Danish People's Party", from Faklen/The Torch no. 13: "Issue no. 13 primarily attacked the Danish People's Party because of its policy on foreigners."
Expressed in more simple terms, there is a great deal of trigger happiness about when it comes to putting a stop to Faklen/The Torch - evidenced alone, by the fact that issue no. 13's "attack on the Danish People's Party because of its policy on foreigners", is in itself a contributing factor to the political pressure directed towards the rescinding of the magazine's support from the Publication's Committee.
On the 17.01.00, Ole Donner came with the following question to the Minister for Culture: "Will the minister investigate whether there is a basis for prosecuting the magazine Faklen/The Torch's editor, Rune Engelbreth Larsen, in connection with issue no.14 of Faklen/The Torch, of the 7 January 2000, pages 9-11, 'How to legally acquire a pistol', and furthermore, will the minister see to it that financial support from the Ministry of Culture is withdrawn from said magazine?"
On the 24.01.00, the Minister for Culture answered, "According to the Publication's Support Committee (Tidsskriftsstøtteudvalget), Faklen/The Torch satisfies the criteria laid down by the committee for the issuing of support", referring to a comment from the committee wherein it is stated, that "It is the committee's judgement that Faklen/The Torch is clearly a publication with a wide cultural objective".
What is more, the idea of banning of the magazine was blankly dismissed: "The article in question describes, how by legal means it is possible to apply for a weapons permit according to the current rules. Therefore, there is no basis on which to bring a prosecution against the editor in question."
However, the Danish People's Party was too over zealous to bother waiting for the Ministry for Culture's assessment, and on the 21.01.00, JP-Aarhus could inform, that foreman for the Danish People's Party in Aarhus County, Søren Lind Jensen, had reported Faklen/The Torch's editor to the police, which was what the Danish People's Party had indirectly called for in its press statement of two weeks previous.
The editor was accused, "through the article 'How to legally acquire a pistol' (Faklen/Then Torch no. 14), of inciting immigrants to procure weapons for use against citizens and authorities within the Danish society". At the same time, it was also suggested that Faklen/The Torch could be banned with reference to § 78, part. 2, of the Constitution, which states: "Associations employing violence, or aiming at the attainment of their object by violence, by instigation to violence, or by similar punishable influence on persons holding other views, shall be dissolved by court judgement."
On the 14.02.00, the Chief Constable of Aarhus Police dismissed the Danish People's Party's allegations: "The background for the decision is that is no tenable reason to suppose that anything illegal has taken place which can be pursued by the authorities."
The police in Aarhus had obviously no problem in reading what the Danish People's Party could not - or would not - namely that the article in question from Faklen/The Torch no.14, in no way incites to illegal acts of any description - quite the opposite, it warns against the hypothetical perspective of the extreme right coming to power and commencing with their promised mass deportation of foreigners.
What we are left with is a testimony of how far the Danish People's Party is prepared to go in its attempts to throttle Faklen/The Torch's exposure of the party's thinly disguised alliances and plans: 1) to put pressure on an independent committee to rescind financial support, 2) to convict Faklen/The Torch's editor of incitement to illegal acts, despite the fact that the article emphasises the opposite, and not least 3) to have Faklen/The Torch forbidden with reference to § 78 of the Constitution.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Haiders thesen sind in Dänemark Regierungspolitik"
On the 15.02.00, the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, writes in the headline to an extended article, which analyses the Danish Prime Minister's participation in the sanctions initiated against Austria as a result of Jörg Haider's participation in the Austrian government: "Haider's dissertations are government policy in Denmark."
Information brought the article in a Danish translation by P.C. Mollerup on the 19.02.00. With regard to the governmental policy of the Social Democratic Party, it states amongst other things:
-The legislation package on immigration primarily impedes on the right of foreigners to family unification. Overall, there are 78 new rules and regulations designed to restrict the influx of foreigners and insure an improved integration process. Thus, yet again, Denmark regards itself as a pioneer country. "Taboos" have already been broken on more than one occasion, after the stipulations regarding asylum legislation and refugee policy have been tightened. Colleagues in the European Union, for the most part followed suit. Denmark for example, is regarded as being the country that invented the rule that asylum seekers must seek asylum in the first safe country they enter after leaving their homeland. For two years, Denmark was the subject of sharp criticism form the United Nations, because by reducing social welfare payments to immigrants and foreigners the country was in violation of international conventions. Nonetheless, Denmark did not desist form its uncompromising course. Since 1998, also third-generation immigrants who have been sentenced to prison, can be deported to their original "homeland" on completion of their sentence.
-Up to now, tougher laws have not been able to placate the national consciousness of the Danes. The appearance of an uncontrollable development in a thoroughly regulated welfare society, leaves a residue of insecurity, extreme views and a hateful atmosphere. According to an investigation from the OECD, Denmark is the country in Europe with the worst record for integration of foreigners in the labour market. It is common knowledge in Denmark that discrimination begins with the name. If it doesn't have a Nordic-Danish ring to it, then it is a waste of time answering job adverts, and the option of changing one's name, which many immigrants have availed themselves of in this country (Germany ed.), is not allowed.
-The reaction to Haider is water in the face of this tired social state, by which the EU-governments confirm all of the prejudices, which the Danish watchdogs led by Pia Kjærsgaard make use of when they complain about the way the European Union encroaches on the sovereignty of individual countries. With the appearance of Haider, they now have a politician in Vienna who preaches what has long since been the practice in Copenhagen - under the auspices of the Social Democratic government. From now on, the Danes need no longer fear being inundated by foreigners or forced to feel like "strangers in their own country". They can completely relax: There is no question of Denmark ever becoming a multi ethnic society. These are not the words of Pia Kjærsgaard or the utterances of an extreme right-winger, but were spoken by the Danish Prime Minister, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, in his New Year's speech.
Also, the International Herald Tribune emphasises the parallels between the politics of Nyrup Rasmussen and Jörg Haider. On the 24.02.00, the newspaper's front page reads as follows:
- The politician spoke dramatically about local families who feel outnumbered by immigrants in their own neighborhoods, who see themselves as strangers in their own land, and victims of ghettos they didn't create. Perhaps because his countrymen were afraid of not being tolerant enough, the problems had been allowed to drift, the politician said. There were good foreigners who contributed to society, of course, but others, he went on, who didn't ''care a whit for our fundamental values.'' So the time had come to ''impose'' a number of ''requirements'' on the immigrants ''to ensure a coherent fabric of society.'' To call the tone of the speech populist - Europe's new tag word for political argumentation that runs to the edges of demagoguery or racism but does not cross the borders of still-polite convention - requires little daring. Its particularity was that it came last month from a totally traditional representative of European social democracy, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the prime minister of Denmark. More than anything else, the remarks, and the restrictions proposed this month for Denmark's immigrant community, seem to illustrate how much once-standard notions of political acceptability can be displaced in the debate about immigration and racism in Europe. Denmark is no Austria, but its image of apple-cheeked decency is living now with mainstream vocabulary and regulations that some Danes find distressingly close to the ideas of the Freedom Party of Joerg Haider.
- Souhail Ibrahim, a Palestinian who quit the Social Democratic Party to try to form an immigrants' party, said: ''This projection is what it's all about. There are Danes who are afraid the foreigners will become the majority. So the Social Democrats changed their principles, and I quit on New Year's Day after 13 years as a member. I don't think Austria will do half of what they're doing to foreigners in Denmark ..."
2,700 or 15,000 homeless in Denmark?
On the 09.02.00, Berlingske Tidende writes, that according to reports from the country's counties and municipalities, the official number of homeless people in Denmark is approximately 2,700.
However, the number is far smaller than previous estimates: By way of the health insurance ID-cards, there were 8,000 people registered as homeless in Denmark in 1998, but according to the Ministry of Social Affairs, the real figure is closer to 10,000 (source: B.T., 06.10.98). The judgement at that time was that there were between 5,000 and 6,000 homeless people in Copenhagen alone, a figure, which according to psychiatrist Preben Brandt, was constantly on the increase (source: Berlingske Tidende, 03.10.98).
Countrywide, the number of homeless people today is approaching 15,000, says Preben Brandt and Project Out-of-Doors (Projekt Udenfor) (source: Berlingske Tidende 09.02.00).
Project Out-of-Doors was established in 1997 by Preben Brandt and social worker Torben Pilely. The aim is to unite practical work at street level with research-orientated work, deliver a focused effort to help the socially ostracised and influence health and social welfare policies.
Torben Pilely divides the homeless into three categories: the "Highway Rovers" (landevejsridderne), as the only ones who are voluntarily homeless, the bag people, who are often mentally ill and are extremely difficult to come into contact with, and finally, a larger group who are periodically institutionalised. The homeless people in this group have become progressively younger over the last few years. "It is most difficult for the group of people who are periodically institutionalised. They receive money from the system, but do not fit into the system's pigeonholes. They are unruly, and are oftentimes in and out of hospitals, treatment centres, prisons, hostel and shelters. The group comprises of amongst others, drug addicts, alcoholics, mental ill people and prostitutes," explains Torben Pilely to the newspaper.
And here, amongst the people who work on the streets every day and have contact with the environment, it is estimated the there are between 10 and 15,000 homeless people in Denmark today, depending on one's definition of the word homeless.
Solitary confinement - because of overcrowding
The Danish practice of confining people to isolation has already been the subject of sharp criticism from international organisations as an authentic manifestation of torture (see also: Faklen/The Torch no.10). But now inmates are also being placed in isolation wings without any consideration given to their behaviour or the criminal offence they may have committed, informs Berlingske Tidende (10.02.00). "It happens, not as a result of criminality or behaviour, but because of overcrowding," explains prison inspector Jørgen Bang from Horsens State Prison. The inmates in the so-called isolation wings have, as opposed to those in total isolation, the possibility of receiving visits in their cells and have joint exercise sessions, but must for example, work in their cells and not in the workshop, informs Troels Bloch, prison inspector at Vridsløselille Prison, to the newspaper.
"There is a limitation placed on association with other prisoners, which is very unfortunate. Joint exercise sessions and visits in the cell are no substitute for association on the wings. For this reason, it is bordering a state of isolation, says Birgitte Skjødt, foreman for the Union of Court Appointed Lawyers in Copenhagen (Foreningen af Beskikkede Advokater i København), to the newspaper.
State control: Whom have you been to bed with?
A new Bill from Minister of Justice Frank Jensen, means that from now on, single mothers can be sent to prison if they refuse to supply the county authorities with a list of their sexual partners, so that the authorities can, by the use of DNA-testing, determine the child's paternity, writes Berlingske Tidende (24.01.00).
"It is a hypocritical proposal, which will pressurise some single mothers into having an abortion. If for example, a married man has fathered a child with another women, then he will do whatever he can to pressurise the women into having an abortion," says social worker Hanne Reintoft, who is supported by associate professor in family justice at Copenhagen University, Anette Kronborg: "It will clearly put pressure on vulnerable women, if single mothers are forced to give information concerning the paternity of their children. The problem will show itself with regard to those women who maybe are being physically abused or are socially disadvantaged, where in numerous cases it is not at all in the child's interest to have a father. It is deeply problematic, that on paper, a child must always have both a mother and a father." (Berlingske Tidende, 25.01.00).
Apart from the moral issue involved, there is also an economic motive behind the Justice Ministry's proposal: If a single mother refuses to say who the father of her child is, then the state is obliged to take over the child maintenance payments which normally fall to the father: 887 crowns (c. 107.3 $) per month; a yearly bill for the state approaching 80 million crowns (c. 9.8 million $) (source: Berlingske Tidende 25.01.00). Of what significance then, is the child's welfare, the mother's independence, or the right to privacy?
Violence statistics with a pinch of salt
The police's violence statistics are grossly exaggerated, writes Information (19-20.02.00). Approximately 66 percent (!) of the serious violence and approximately 50 percent of the "ordinary" violence, which appears in the police's statistics does not express actual cases in the two categories.
The case is such, that statistics are based on reports of violence, which in a majority of cases were shown to be without substance. The investigation that uncovered the imbalance between the statistics and reality was conducted by the police themselves.
Then as now
On the 06.02.00, Berlingske Tidende reported on the Icelandic research scientist, Vilhjálmur Örn Vilhjálmsson, who - after strong resistance by the authorities - was the first person to gain access to Danish archives concerning the Danish authorities deportation of Jews and other "aliens" from Denmark to Germany in the period between 1940-44, altogether there were at least 132 stateless refugees expelled from Denmark to Germany during this period, some of them to an uncertain fate, others to certain death: Vilhjálmur can document that in 21 cases, Danish officials from the Ministry for Justice amongst other places, on their own initiative - that is to say, without receiving any request from the German authorities - expelled Jewish refugees, all of whose names have since surfaced on lists of the missing and dead from German concentration camps. " In all secrecy, the Danish authorities conducted a consistent policy of expulsion. A number of officials based their assessments on anti-Semitism and racism. Individuals within the police force and state officials yielded immense authority. In 21 cases, their final word was in fact a death sentence for Jewish refugees," explains Vilhjálmsson to the newspaper.
The parallel to the unprecedented stringency of today's policy on foreigners is apparently obvious, also for an historical researcher. In Information the 22.02.00, Vilhjálmsson writes amongst other things: "One of the things, which has especially given me reason to reflect, is the similarity between events of today and historical events as they unfolded 60 years ago (...) The fact that my research concerns Jews expelled 55 years ago, also makes me wonder about the fate of the four Iranians who disappeared after being expelled from Denmark in recent years. Must we also this time, wait 60 years before gaining access to their case files and knowledge of their fate?"
Of course, now as then, it is not least the legislation governing immigration policy which makes it possible for the authorities to be so stringent in its administration, with the price being paid in human tragedies. And then as now, there was widespread support amongst the population, observes Head of Research at the Royal Library (Det Kongelige Bibliotek), John T. Lauridsen, according to Berlingske Tidende (08.02.00): "The deportations were a logical consequence of the refugee policy that had been practiced up to that point. The state officials had been told that the refugees were politically unwelcome. And they acted accordingly (...) There was unanimous agreement with regard to the restrictive refugee policy amongst the prominent political parties in Denmark, and the policies had the support of the Danish population," explains Lauridsen to the newspaper.
The four Iranians referred to by Vilhjálmsson are not isolated cases. In recent years, Denmark has expelled a significant number of Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka, who came to Denmark as unaccompanied minors, because the Danish Consul in Sri Lanka as well as the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were of the opinion that they could re-enter the country without any difficulty. On the 29-30.01.00, Information tells of a 22-year-old Tamil refugee who came to Denmark in 1993 as a 16-year-old, but was refused asylum in this country and expelled to Sri Lanka. However, on re-entry to the Sri Lanka he was immediately imprisoned and tortured every day for a period of six weeks, before managing to escape and make his way back to Denmark. "In conclusion, we find a clear correlation between the torture described and the actual symptoms and objective findings," concludes the medical report, while a psychological examination pointed to "massive psychological traumatisation and psycho-somatic indications," which are a serious threat to his physical and mental condition, writes the newspaper.
In 1998, because of an official Croatian "amnesty", the Refugee Tribunal (Flygtningenævnet), refused asylum to 20 Serbs from Eastern Slavonia, who fled reprisals from the Croatian population. They are now living underground in Denmark while their appeal cases are being processed (source: Berlingske Tidende 09.02.00). On the 08.02.00, Berlingske Tidende can report, that a family with four children have just received final refusal of their application for asylum and were ordered to leave the country within ten days. "I have some documentation of the persecution they were subjected to in Eastern Slavonia, which the Refugee Tribunal apparently ignored, or chose to ignore. But the Refugee Tribunal can obviously do what it please," says family spokesperson, Kim Andersen, who also sees a parallel between the deportation of Jewish asylum seekers during the war: "It's a case of a number of exalted officials with the power to pass judgements that mean life or death for other people, without anybody being able to question their decisions. If the Eastern Slavonians are deported, then Denmark will once again find itself in the position of having to apologise." The Refugee Tribunal (which processes the appeals of its own decisions itself), will decide upon the fate of the remaining families by oral vote before the end of the month, writes the newspaper - according to Politiken, the 18.02.00, 13 of the 20 remaining cases were definitively refused.
The state officials are only doing their job. The Refugee Tribunal (Flygtningenævnet) has acted completely in line with the strict guidelines laid down by the popularly elected politicians: "...exclusively by the book. The Serbian cases only elucidate a general status within the Danish asylum policy," reports the newspaper from a statement by the Danish Center for Human Rights (Det Danske Center for Menneskerettigheder)
"The deportations were a logical consequence of the refugee policy that had been practiced up to that point (...) There was unanimous agreement with regard to the restrictive refugee policy amongst the prominent political parties in Denmark, and the policies had the support of the Danish population," says Head of Research at the Royal Library, John T. Lauridsen, above - concerning the deportation of 21 Jewish refugees from Denmark to Germany in the period 1940-44.
Then as now.
Jyllands-Posten's hidden crisis - "Berufsverbot", "threats" and "terror" from Chief Editor
On the face of it, the morning newspaper, Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten, presents the image of a successful and harmonious daily newspaper, which in recent years has evolved from an uninfluential provincial daily with the not very flattering epithet, "The Morning Fascist", to Denmark's absolute leading daily newspaper - thanks to exceptional leadership and universal enthusiasm amongst the employees.
However, internally the newspaper is racked by serious compatibility problems between the leadership and workers, with a pronounced lack of confidence in Chief Editor Jørgen Ejbøl - not least in the newspaper office in Viby.
Former shop steward and journalist with the newspaper, Flemming Chr. Nielsen, who is an outside lecturer at the Danish School of Journalism (Danmarks Journalisthøjskole), comments to Faklen/The Torch: "When he looses the ability of logical argumentation, he reacts by screaming and shouting and trampling people under his jack-boots. Somebody has equipped him with enormous power, and he yields this power in exactly the same fashion as for example, the ruling power elites of East Germany and Rumania once did, that is to say, with threats and terror, and with a dozen or so flunkies nodding and clapping."
Two internal investigations into job-satisfaction in the work place, undertaken by a special group of journalists (Journalisternes faglige Gruppe) at Jyllands-Posten, on the initiative of amongst others Flemming Chr. Nielsen, in 1996 and 1999 respectively, show that the main editorial office's relationship with employees, which was marked by "serious problems", according to the conclusion from 1996, [Job Satisfaction Investigation 1996, p. 67 (Trivelsesundersøgelse 1996, s. 67)], has worsened in 1999.
All of 82.9 % are of the opinion today, that the internal publication JP/Insats, "in no way" or only "to a lesser degree", depicts a proper image of the internal conditions at Jyllands-Posten (in 1996 the figure was 78,7 %). Discontent is greatest amongst female workers in the newspaper office in Viby, where all of 96.7 % feel that JP/Insats "in no way" or only "to a lesser degree" depicts a proper image of the conditions.
80.2 % are of the opinion, that the editorial office "to a large degree" or "to some degree" favours certain employees to the detriment of others (in 1996 the figure was 74.3%).
59.9 % are of the opinion, that the editorial office "in no way" or only "to a lesser degree" accepts critical approaches from co-workers (in 1996 the figure was 52. 0%). All of 71% of the female employees at the newspaper office in Viby, are of the opinion that the editorial office, in no way or only to a lesser degree accepts criticism, amongst male employees in Viby, the figure is 64.0 %.
In the autumn of 1996, the first job-satisfaction report was presented on the background of information acquired from a questionnaire distributed internally amongst the newspaper's, at that time, 273 journalistic staff (the answer rate was 74.0 %). The report's conclusion stated amongst other things: "But when the main editorial office, in the opinion of 78 % of co-workers at the Viby office, shows little or no human understanding or psychological appreciation, then it is time for a process of open and collective self-analysis. ¨That the editorial office, in the opinion of 77.2 % of co-workers, to a large degree or to some degree, favours certain co-workers to the detriment of others, can be seen as an expression of a policy of divide and rule, making a process of self-analysis seem even more unavoidable. That 70.9 % of co-workers have expressed, that to a large degree or to some degree, there is too great a distance between the main editorial office and the employees, only emphasises the need for a debate. The same thing applies when the editorial office, according to 68,5 % of co-workers, to a greater or lesser degree, shows little or no interest in the staffs' working conditions ..." (p. 66).
141 of the personal comments returned with the questionnaire form 1996, concerned the main editorial office. 139 of these were negative and "41 of them stated that the editorial office's problem with relation to the employees was related to Jyllands-Posten's Chief Editor (p. 67).
In the wake of the latest investigation, the board of directors of the special group of journalists (Journalisternes faglige Gruppe) have concluded amongst other things: "The editorial office's communication with employees - or judging from the investigation, lack of the same - is a problem for many people. The feeling of being controlled by the leadership is widespread, more so than in 1996, and the same is true regarding the editorial office's interest in the working conditions of the individual." (p. 4).
In 1999, 75.9 % of the journalists at Jyllands-Posten felt that the editorial office displays either "none at all" or "to a lesser degree", any form of "human understanding or psychological appreciation" (in 1996 the figure was at 72.3 %). The discontent was even greater at the newspaper office in Viby, where 83.8 % of male employees and all of 87.1 % of the female employees, felt that the editorial office displays either "none at all" or only "to a lesser degree" any form of human understanding.
Flemming Chr. Nielsen views his exit from Jyllands-Posten as a "leap over a Berlin Wall", and feels especially that Chief Editor Ejbøl's attempt to "stifle criticism" as an expression of totalitarianism.
As the forthcoming debate on the investigation into job-satisfaction in the workplace is to take place, yet again, without the participation of Ejbøl, he adds and emphasises, that there can be a heavy price to pay for disagreeing with the Chief Editor: "He reacted to this "betrayal" by removing me from certain areas of journalistic interest, so eventually I was banned (Berufsverbot) from three quarters of the journalistic jobs at Jyllands-Posten.
Double winner of the Cavling prize, Erik Eisenberg, who also left Jyllands-Posten in 1999, is no less critical of the newspaper's leadership. Eisenberg comments to the professional publication, The Journalist (Journalisten): "You can put a name to the problem: Jørgen Ejbøl. He loves to refer to himself as commander-in-chief and general, and the problem is that he also treats his co-workers as if they were soldiers. He inserts people wherever he feels like it, and moves them around without any consideration to the fact that it's human beings he is dealing with." (01.03.00).
The internal relationship between the main editorial office and the journalistic staff has worsened in each one of the decisively critical points from 1996 to 1999, even though the situation was already classified as "serious" in 1996, and despite the fact that the very strong feelings with regard to the editorial office's favouring of certain workers to the detriment of others, was at that time already characterised as an expression of a policy of "divide and rule".
In 1996, the special group of journalists (Journalisternes faglige Gruppe) demanded a process of "open and collective self-analysis" from the leadership. Though it seems that there was nobody listening.
By Rune Engelbreth Larsen and Jeppe Berg Sandvej
Translated by Anthony Kiely