Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Jens-André P. Herbener
Rune Engelbreth Larsen
Somalians complain to the UN
Muhamed Gelle, the spokesman of 50 Somalian associations in Denmark, has complained to the UNHCR over the harassment which Somalians in Denmark have to suffer from authorities and media as well as in everyday life.
At times, Somalian women and children even fear walking in the street and thus the Somalians have asked the UN to find a secure country where they may be instead, e.g. Canada.
In a collaboration with Rage H.M. Rage, chairman of the UNSOM committee which is to help the UN investigate the case, The Torch supplies the documentation for the discriminating laws, media campaigns and harassing statements from leading politicians which have been a part of everyday life for Somalians in Denmark in recent years.
PRESS AND GOVERNMENT HETZ AGAINST SOMALIANS AND OTHER REFUGEES
IN DENMARK, SEPTEMBER 1996 TO FEBRUARY 1998 In recent years Denmark has witnessed a radically increasing racist smear campaign,
accompanied by harassment turned against refugees and asylum-seekers. The socially critical cultural
magazine The Torch (Danish: Faklen) has, since September 1996, closely followed and documented
this development; the present paper is a summary of cases from the last year and a half which illustrate
the atmosphere and the conditions under which Somalians in particular and refugees/immigrants in
general have to live in Denmark today. The pressure against refugees is increasing from the press and the politicians as well as from
the police, with a spectrum from regular racism and protracted media campaigns directed against
refugees, over severely discriminating Bills and grossly incriminating statements from high-ranking
politicians, to a pervasive harassment in everyday life from ordinary Danes who according to many
surveys increasingly abhor refugees and immigrants. Numerous human rights experts repeatedly point out that human rights and UN conventions
are violated by Denmark, while the foreign press takes a more and more unsympathetic attitude
towards the infringements which refugees must suffer here. It is our hope that the United Nations, in the light of the information given below, will find
occasion to intervene more actively for a much-needed improvement of the conditions to which
Somalians – and refugees in general &ndash– are exposed in Denmark. SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER, 1996 Editorial in Jyllands-Posten: Reformatory camps for criminal immigrants
PRESS AND GOVERNMENT HETZ AGAINST SOMALIANS AND OTHER REFUGEES IN DENMARK, SEPTEMBER 1996 TO FEBRUARY 1998
In recent years Denmark has witnessed a radically increasing racist smear campaign, accompanied by harassment turned against refugees and asylum-seekers. The socially critical cultural magazine The Torch (Danish: Faklen) has, since September 1996, closely followed and documented this development; the present paper is a summary of cases from the last year and a half which illustrate the atmosphere and the conditions under which Somalians in particular and refugees/immigrants in general have to live in Denmark today.
The pressure against refugees is increasing from the press and the politicians as well as from the police, with a spectrum from regular racism and protracted media campaigns directed against refugees, over severely discriminating Bills and grossly incriminating statements from high-ranking politicians, to a pervasive harassment in everyday life from ordinary Danes who according to many surveys increasingly abhor refugees and immigrants.
Numerous human rights experts repeatedly point out that human rights and UN conventions are violated by Denmark, while the foreign press takes a more and more unsympathetic attitude towards the infringements which refugees must suffer here.
It is our hope that the United Nations, in the light of the information given below, will find occasion to intervene more actively for a much-needed improvement of the conditions to which Somalians – and refugees in general &ndash– are exposed in Denmark.
Editorial in Jyllands-Posten: Reformatory camps for criminal immigrants
Under the headline »City of Hoodlums«, the editorial in Jyllands-Posten uses a couple of violent incidents in Aarhus as a stepping stone for criticizing the politicians for their reluctance to realize the idea of sending criminal young immigrants to »reformatory camps« in Egypt (4.9.96).
Report from the national police accuses immigrants for organized crime – without documentation
The national police conclude in a Danish contribution to a European report on organized crime that immigrants in Denmark are increasingly involved in organized crime, but they do not produce any documentation of this statement.
Chief constable Jens Henrik Højbjerg from the national police admits that the allegations are undocumented: »The EU report is not intended for operative use. We have attempted to make a thumbnail sketch and describe some fields, where the warning signals should flash.« (Jyllands- Posten, 12.9.96).
This undocumented thumbnail sketch thus explicitly throws suspicion on, among others, Pakistani, Iranians, Curds from Turkey, Iraqi, Lebanese, Gambians, Colombians and refugees from the former Yugoslavia.
The Minister of the Interior: Foreigners convicted for drugs should be deported
According to a Bill hastily delivered by Birte Weiss, Minister of the Interior, a judge shall be able to deport a foreigner who is guilty of drug-related crime. (Berlingske Tidende, 10.10.96).
Only »drug-related crime« is a very broad definition; a foreigner who is taken by the police with a couple of grams of hash may subsequently be convicted of »drug-related crime« should he later be found guilty of stealing a bicycle.
Offensive from the Ministry of the Interior in new Tamil case
On 30.08.93 the young Tamil girl Chitra Rajendram arrived to Denmark. by a long and troublesome escape route. In October 1996 she is to be deported to the very country from which she escaped. In spite of protests from her classmates and the sympathy of the press, Minister of the Interior Birte Weiss sticks to her rejection of granting a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. On 31.10.96 she is sent back to Sri Lanka.
In a very short time, however, the Ministry of the Interior succeeds in turning the atmosphere 180 degrees, and soon the headlines in an almost unanimous press run: »Chitra lied.« Information is continuously leaked from the Ministry of the Interior which »demonstrate« that Chitra was »unreliable«, that she refused to have her age tested and lied about her age.
Birte Weiss, the Minister of the Interior, who was seriously rebuked for her inhuman attitude in Chitra's case, received a full rehabilitation; B.T. subsequently commented: »It is time to say that Birte Weiss has handled this case cold-bloodedly but not without a heart, and that is an art (...) We do not know Chitra's real story, but it is obvious that she has tried to deceive the asylum authorities.« Politiken writes in an editorial: »Even if we do not regret (...) we would like to recognize that Birte Weiss has done her job in this case as well.« (9.1.97).
The journalists Morten Bohr and Erik Valeur from DR's documentary group (DR is the public radio and TV station with three radio channels) described the real course of events during what they termed »the disastrous press coverage and the Ministry's elegant counteroffensive« in their radio montage »The girl from Sri Lanka«. In the article »The girl and the minister« in Journalisten 26.3.97 they summarize some of their conclusions on the story.
Thus Bohr and Valeur are able to establish that the Chitra case is not treated by journalists with professional expertise in the subject of refugees and immigrants; on the contrary, the news were teeming with errors, and the involved journalists were not able to grasp the perspectives of this case. In Journalisten they write: »By way of example, they never discover that this case is of crucial importance for a much larger maneuver regarding the deportation of Tamils – a maneuver which has been on its way the last three years.«
Some spectacular news caused the sympathy of the public to shift from Chitra to Weiss. The News on TV2 announced on November 5 that they were »in possession of« the two-year-old decision from the Refugee Board (Flygtningenævnet) - thus a decision which has been available all the time is depicted as a dramatic bomb in the case. The rest of the press follows suit, and due note is taken of the fact that Chitra is labeled »unreliable« by the Refugee Administration.
However, Bohr and Valeur are able to report that there is nothing spectacular in that label: »There is a number of experts which might have explained the finer workings of the asylum field to inexperienced journalists. But nobody is called. Nobody is allowed to observe that the label 'unreliable' is normal in cases regarding asylum, and that practically all asylum-seekers lie about some things - especially routes of escape. One of the reasons for that is that a correct description would take them back where they started.«
Things are cleverly confused; the asylum decision of the Refugee Board can suddenly justify the minister's deportation but nobody notices that Birte Weiss' decision did not regard asylum but a petition for residence permission on humanitarian grounds, even though the very idea in this system is that these things must be totally separated. The minister also fails to draw the attention to this.
»Within a few hours, the press' mixing up of things removes the focus from the minister's independent and sovereign decision of deporting Chitra and thus makes the whole case turn,« Bohr and Valeur observe.
Shortly afterwards a male Tamil from Jutland sends a fax to the Ministry of the Interior revealing a Tamil »network« supposedly controlling the case. On November 7 TV2 introduces the letter as yet another bomb.
No one, neither the police, the minister or TV2 finds it necessary to add that the Central Police Department has examined the letter and its sender the very same day and concluded that the information given therein is without substance and has closed the case. On November 17 DR follows in TV2's footsteps and the Sunday edition of its news once again dramatize the course of events and the infamous letter - and once again the conclusion of the police is not mentioned.
The Ministry of the Interior even publishes a number of reports from the Danish consul general in Colombo, Palle Bjørn Rasmussen, referring to Sri Lankan police chiefs which are uncritically quoted in the press and further corroborates the impression of Chitra deceiving the Danish authorities. Denials from Danes in Sri Lanka do not appear until the press has stopped writing about the case.
Bohr and Valeur conclude: »After having conversations with a number of the media involved one can easily follow an extremely well-planned counteroffensive from the Ministry of the Interior: telephone calls, messages, special meetings, leaks of confidential information in exchange for full protection of the source (...) At present the post-Chitra image of the false refugees which have been smuggled in supplies a perfect background for tightening the Aliens Act, for the continued deportation of Tamils from Denmark - and, of course, not least for the supranational cooperation regarding refugees, which now - four months after the Chitra case - may do away with the first of the four Danish EU provisos. All of this done with the invaluable assistance of the Danish press.«
The offensive of the Ministry of the Interior has been such a success that the lie about »Chitra the liar« and the »Sri Lankan network« is still the public's impression of the case.
On 15.3.97 the journalists Mette-Line Thorup and Signe Lindskov Hansen of Information deal with the case and its consequences in a feature which, among other things, focuses on how the media since the Chitra case have declined to take up similar cases concerning the deportation of young Tamils.
Birte Weiss' claim that Chitra lied about her parents' death has never been documented. The allegations that she refused an age test are false, she only declined some X-ray examinations. The information that Chitra contrary to her own claims has never been a member of the Tamil Tigers has never been documented. The information concerning a secret Tamil network in Denmark was unfounded. And yet she was sent back to Sri Lanka.
The Minister of Labour: The Employment Exchange (Arbejdsformidlingen) can give up an unemployed with the wrong colour
Minister of Labour Jytte Andersen states to Politiken that the employees of the Job exchange also have to assess whether the unemployed »actually have a chance of getting the job, before he or she is sent to an interview. This may mean that the Job Exchange discards an unemployed because of the colour of his skin or a foreign-sounding name.« (11.12-96).
Two days later, the minister withdraws and claims to Information, that the quotation was out of context - we would like to know which context that may have been? Poul Dengsøe, the journalist of Politiken, maintains that the minister made the statement reported by him.
Editorial in Jyllands-Posten: Young refugees have to be surveyed maximally
The editorial in JP-Østjylland 1.12.96 testifies, that the isolated incidents of violence where immigrants have been involved are used to criminalize a whole section of the population: »The young refugees from the Middle East have to be surveyed maximally. They have to be stopped and searched at every opportunity on the suspicion of illegal arms possession.«
Asylum-seekers await their decision up to 8 years
In spite of the promises of a quicker consideration of asylum cases, according to the asylum department of the Danish Red Cross many asylum-seekers still have to wait in complete uncertainty regarding their future for as much as eight years before a decision has been made by the Danish asylum system. (Politiken, 19.12.96).
Control of marital cohabitance
Denmark, Sweden, and Finland announce a tightening of practise in cases concerning the reunion of families; in the future, DNA tests or investigations of age will be used. The Immigration Authorities are working on an even more rigorous practise, the so-called »control of marital cohabitation«, where the police has to decide whether those granted the reunion of their family actually live together. (Berlingske Tidende, 9.1.97).
In that connection, Minister of the Interior Birte Weiss declare: »A high rate of cheating must lead to an extraordinary degree of control. We will not accept swindling.« (Berlingske Tidende, 17.1.97).
Where this high »rate of cheating« might be documented the minister does not tell.
Test of political refugees: Assessment of genitals and pubic hair
Associate Professor in Immigration Law Jens Vedsted Hansen of the Danish Center for Human Rights criticizes the humiliating testing of asylants' age that is based on an assessment of the pubic hair and genitals of the applicant. He says to Berlingske Tidende: »Having to stand naked in front of a stranger and letting oneself examine demands some sort of legal authority - and I see none such in the Aliens Act.« (28.2.97).
The Aliens Committee defends itself that participation in this test is voluntary. The question is then if this will influence the application for asylum of the individual refugee, and the Director of the Aliens Committee, Claes Nilas, answers: »If people refuse, we will have to note it in their papers. But it is clear that we will have to ask ourselves: 'Why does the person in question not want to participate in this?'«
A »voluntary« test of pubic hair and genitals?
Military intelligence: 2. generation immigrants constitute a national security risk
The latest security analysis of the Military Intelligence Service (FET) declares that 2. and 3. generation immigrants represent a special threat against national security. In FET's threat estimate, the following is stated according to Jyllands-Posten: »The Danish development in the direction of a multiethnic society where representatives (2. or 3. generation) of immigrants or refugees are drafted or volunteer to serve in the army, may represent a certain risk for causing the presence of persons who, for reasons of loyalty or dependency will act for or sympatize with terrorist organizations in the respective home countries and in this connection carry out intelligence activities.« (18.3.97).
FET thus sends a signal throwing suspicion of a really gross character on the thousands of Danish citizens whose potential for terror apparently consists in the very incriminating fact that their parents or grandparents do not happen to be born in Denmark.
Ekstra Bladet: »The foreigners« undermine happy, harmonic Denmark
March 31st Ekstra Bladet launches the campaign »Why do we need the foreigners«.
Editor-in-chief Sven Ove Gade states the intention the same day in an introductory article: »Every day, the accustomed picture of Denmark is changing. From being a harmonic, manageable society we are more and more influenced by people with a different ethnic and religious background. (...) Nobody has asked them to come. They just come.«
TV commercials accompanied by the national anthem show black silhouettes of crowds entering the country, giant posters all over the country complain xenophobic slogans, and as common emblem the logo of Ekstra Bladet is shown with the name of the newspaper written in Arabic - in other words, we have to imagine a future where the immigration and the »arabization« even has ousted the Danish native language.
Newspaper headlines like »Hatred and Distrust« and »No more refugees« (written on a »No Parking«-sign) express what the newspaper calls the voice of the people; the people who will no longer put up with »goodness«, from time to time contradicted by a few experts like, for instance, Professor Jørgen Bæk Simonsen from the Carsten Niebuhr Institute, so the newspaper outwardly can feign some self-respect - this really is a »debate«. Or, like Sven Ove Gade admonished the critics in an editorial: Why are the intellectuals so upset? »Ekstra Bladet permits itself to raise some important questions: How can we best and most efficiently help? How many immigrants must Denmark take?« (13.4.97).
So that's the point of a front page with the text »Hatred and Distrust«.
From time to time, positive scoops are launched, like the story of the Somalian family that in »Denmark, this foolishly kind paradise« receives 630.000 kroner in welfare. An outcry is raised.
For comparison, Ekstra Bladet can inform its readers that a typical Danish wage earner makes about 220.000 kroner annually, that only 6% of the population earns more than 300.000, and only 1% more than 500.000 kroner. The Somalian family, however, consists of three adults and eleven children.
Fourteen people sharing 630.000 kroner - is that really so unacceptable?
The editorialist weeps over those Danes who »suffer«, all the things we have to be without because a family of fourteen can receive 630.000 kroner of public money: »... every day some Danes, self-employed persons, who have to give up their homes because they no longer can cope with the taxman.« (23.5.97). So the Somalian refugees are taking the bread out of the mouths of our poor self- employed persons who are really driven hard.
»It's important to sit as fierce guardians of the Treasury«, declares an outraged Karen Jespersen, Minister of Social Affairs, about the case in the news in DR1 television, 28.5.97.
The Minister also finds no reason to explain that any family, even if its surname was Hansen instead of Ali, under the same circumstances would have received exactly the same amount.
Already the day after, Ekstra Bladet is able to publish a bundle of indignant letters to the editor because of the welfare of the Somalian family - which must have been mailed pretty rapidly, considering the time it takes to edit and print a newspaper.
One of the main features of the campaign is actually that of letting the reader, the »average Dane«, be heard in letters to the editor and special interviews.
In an editorial, the following is said about this: »As a part of Ekstra Bladet's campaign we not only publish letters, but we have also chosen to interview some of the writers. Their opinions can be very harsh, but this happens to be part of the popular reality.« (Ekstra Bladet, 6.4.97)
One of the first to be chosen to describe »a part of the popular reality« is managing director Lillian Sandstad, who turns her unreserved criticism against the Muslims: »... they walk around with their own culture.«
»The culture (the Danish culture) disappears automatically, and we will end up having a civil war,« (31.3.97) she declares. Steen Lyngaae Jørgensen continues along the same track and also describes especially Muslims as a big problem. »Their use of headscarfs is a sign that they do not want to absorb the Danish culture and be integrated in society.« (1.4.97). Erik Rasmussen also feels that the Danish culture is endangered - if nothing more, then at least the Danish food culture: » ... I would also like to be able to continue eating meat balls and roast pork. (...) According to the Koran, they have to kill us all« (2.4.97). If we, in spite of the intention of the conspiratorial Muslims want to be absolutely certain of keeping both meat balls and roast pork, Børge Hartmann Christensen presents an infallible solution: »If you want me to say it in so many words: Lock them up.« (3.4.97). Helge Yndigegn, on the other hand, emphasizes in a more moderate vein that while he would never vote for a political candidate with an »Immigrant background«, he still thinks that the current »problems of integration« might be solved, if only the frontier was closed at once (7.4.97).
What was the question that the newspaper's campaign »permitted itself« to raise, according to the editor-in-chief? »How can we best and most efficiently help« ...
But for the same reason the newspaper prefers to refer to its campaign as a »debate«, as has been mentioned, and as a consequence it has interviewed two anti-racist readers. Now there's some sort of balance in things ...
The first of these, Kristoffer Thorn Poulsen, is described as a happy satirist, feels that »the foreigners« are scapegoats and adds that Danish culture actually is not all that Danish, since »potatoes and snaps come from Holland«.. Thorn Poulsen is weary of extremes, though: »On one side are all those who believe that everything related to refugees and immigrants is bad. On the other hand those who go into raptures about the foreigners' good cooking and think everything is wonderful.« (5.4.97).
This opinion is obviously very liberal and open according to Ekstra Bladet's picture of the world, and the journalist succeeds in convincing Thorn Pedersen that he might be less liberal if he lived in a place with a high concentration of immigrants and refugees.
Jens Laursen-Schmidt also appears to belong to the opposition in this »debate«. He finds that all Danish culture is already imported, and advocates more tolerance; he does find it unreasonable, however, that a Muslim boy in a Danish primary school refuses to shower with his Danish classmates.
So there's the limit.
Of course, Laursen-Schmidt is also asked if his attitude would be less liberal if he were to live in a place with a high concentration of immigrants: »I don't know. Maybe.« (6.4.97). Once again, the immanent thesis of Ekstra Bladet is confirmed: It is easy enough to be so uncommonly »good« and liberal as Thorn Poulsen and Laursen-Schmidt, as long as the problem is far away - but if you live near refugees and immigrants it is another matter entirely.
Of these objective in-depth interviews, the following self-righteous statement is found in one of the editorials we quoted earlier: »As something completely new, we have chosen to speak with our readers as we would with experts, participants and victims in other areas.«(6.4.97).
»The readers speak out, where the politicians renounce«, is how the newspaper characterizes its special care for the opinion of the public, that is, the readers. From the very representative selection of seven people interviewed by Ekstra Bladet during the campaign, the two last, »immigrant-friendly« readers are not asked about their political affiliation; of the remaining five, two are members of the Danish People's Party, a right-wing party which has xenophobia as the most important item on its program, one is a member of the Conservative Party, another does not wish to reveal his political affiliation, and one »does not remember« ...
Ekstra Bladet's »popular reality«.
Amnesty International: Thousands of refugees are imprisoned every year in Denmark. Their crime? They solicited asylum
In the April edition of Amnesty, Amnesty International uncover Denmark's treatment of refugees under the headline: »Refugees routinely jailed«.
The jurist Kim Kjær, expert in refugee law and researcher at the Danish Centre for Human Rights declares: »Non-criminal refugees are to a relatively great extent jailed on the basis of a superficial consideration of the case. This is problematic compared with the Danish legislation and is at odds with the European Human Rights Convention as well as the guidelines from UNHCR.«
The »relatively great extent« amounted in 1996 alone to about 2,000 refugees! Some were imprisoned a few days, others in several months, a few have been jailed for more than a year - as an example, Jyllands-Posten informs 25.6.97 that an Algerian with no passport or visa has been jailed for as much as 18 months. There is nothing in the law to prevent that he in principle could remain locked up for the rest of his life.
Helge Adam Møller, the conservative spokesman of justice, doesn't consider it to be a problem that legally innocent refugees are imprisoned for years: »Although as much as 40 years would probably be unacceptable.«
The UN's High Commission, UNHCR, criticizes the procedure and suggests as a general principle, that those who solicit asylum »should not be imprisoned«. Where imprisonment may be used as an exception, it must be limited to a »minimal« period of time, and alternative possibilities such as the obligation to report regularly must have been attempted beforehand, unless »proof that these will not be effective« exists.
This is far from characterizing the Danish procedure.
In Amnesty, Jan Aagaard writes: »Amnesty has witnessed 22 hearings concerning imprisonment of refugees. The hearings give the impression that the refugees are jailed routinely, without any specific arguments to motivate the imprisonment.« In an overwhelming majority of the cases, the police presented no motivation for the necessity of the imprisonment - and yet the judge prolonged the imprisonment without any further ceremony.
Refugees coming from countries characterized as »safe« by the Danish authorities may be imprisoned while their case is considered; refugees whose request for asylum has been rejected but refuse to leave the country voluntarily may be imprisoned and finally foreigners who arrive at the border with no passport and visa may be imprisoned - regardless of how they might have lost their papers. There is no upper limit as to how long time the imprisonment can be maintained.
Lawyer Anders Chr. Jensen declares to Amnesty: »No real examination is being carried out in court. Normally, the police get it the way they want. We should be ashamed that the Danish legal system can work this way.«
Kim Kjær from the Danish Centre for Human Rights thinks that there is a great risk the procedure may be in violation of human rights: »Refugees are being jailed quite routinely. These cases are simply decided in advantage, and this is very problematic compared with the human rights.«
The last six years, 16,000 foreigners have been jailed according to the rules in the Aliens Act; about 90% of those were refugees requesting asylum.
Muslim expelled for praying to God
The technical school Trekanten in Kolding expelled the Muslim Mohamed Hassan Elmi for praying to God in a compartment in a corridor outside the canteen. Mohamed Hassan Elmi declares to Jyllands-Posten of the harassment that preceded the expulsion: »They were throwing pebbles, kicking on the wall, yelling at me, and drawing idols on the walls of the compartment.« (11.4.97).
It was not the racist participants, but the injured Muslim who was rebuked by the teacher and told to leave the Center and never return.
A bar fight is sufficient grounds to deport immigrants and refugees
A working party in the Ministry of the Interior suggests that a sentence of 30 days of prison should be sufficient grounds for expulsion. A fight in a bar will, according to Ekstra Bladet, 18.4.97, typically result in such a sentence.
Hereby, Denmark obviously not only vanquishes the legal principle that everybody is equal before the law but since the result of a deportation may be to return the perpetrator to the penitentiary system from which he escaped, this may imply reintroducing the death penalty - only it will not be in Denmark that executioner pulls the trigger.
Ekstra Bladet's editorial: The immigration is compared to the German occupation 1940- 45
On occasion of the anniversary of Denmark's liberation in 1945, Ekstra Bladet advocates , under the headline »Occupation!«, the idea that »the enemy« has returned in a new disguise.
The editorial warns the guard in the air defence tower looking south: »He does not see that the enemy is already in the living room, for he does not know the enemy's disguise. He does not understand that devilry will never return in exactly the same fashion. » (5.5.97).
Who is, then, »the enemy« according to Ekstra Bladet and who represents the »devilry«, which so cunningly has repeated the success of the occupying German forces in today's Denmark?
»There is an occupation without a war. It sneaks up on us without bloodshed, imperceptibly taking over the control of our lives, and the control of our freedom as a nation. Europeism and immigration constitute the existing threat against Denmark's freedom as a nation».
This grotesquely demagogic parallel between immigrants and occupying armies is obviously nothing more than new parameters in the same conceptual framework that during the German occupation converted the Jews into an occupying force with a global conspiracy.
That's how far it has come.
The editorial continues: »The big temptation for today's people is not the war, but Peace exalted to a project.»
Criminalization of mixed (Danish/foreign) married couples
»As soon as you marry a foreigner you're a case for the police and have to prove your innocence. This is an inversion of the conception of justice. The Danish Immigration Service, which handles all the cases, suspects all Danish-foreign marriages of being pro forma,« states Eli Lykke, an activist of the National Association of Danish-foreign Married Couples to Socialistisk Arbejderavis, 8.5.97.
If you are poor, that is, if you earn less than twice the Social Security benefit for one person or about 200,000 kroner, you have no right to fall in love with a foreigner and live together in Denmark. This is prevented by the obligation of maintenance.
»It is so discriminating, that the tax-financed social security net which all Danes have does not apply for Danish-foreign couples, says Eli Lykke. Meanwhile the long wait while the cases are being considered means that those who do wait are »non-persons« in Denmark. They cannot get a personal identity number (CPR number), and the children cannot start in kindergarten or school.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: »memory cell« or »camp« for unidentifiable refugees
Anders Fogh Rasmussen from Venstre (a traditionally liberal and quite influential party to the right in Danish politics) does not want to »stop at« using force in order to make Danes and immigrants take any job whatsoever; he also wants to get a special »gradual absorption salary« for immigrants, even though they do exactly the same work as their Danish colleagues.
And then we have the problem with refugees who in their desperate situation cannot or will not reveal their origin lest they be returned. In this case, it is not a question of special understanding or sympathy, no, they must be forced into identifying themselves, whether they can or not.
»... we have to find some means of forcing them into producing some sort of identification.« (Ekstra Bladet, 8.5.97). How about a »camp« or a »memory cell«, asks the ingenious journalists, to which Fogh Rasmussen replies: »You can use whatever expression you like« ...
According to the same interview, Venstre also wants to oppose the »absurdity«, that Muslim girls refuse to let their pubic hair examine when their age is to be estimated.
Nothing is too intimate.
Refugees who refuse to »go home« are deprived of all financial support
The latest statement from the police shows that 524 foreigners refuse to assist in their own expulsion. With a hitherto unprecedented harshness, refugees who have been denied asylum must be forced out of the country, while at the same time refugees who have arrived illegally must be forced to »co-operate with the police«.
The leader of the Central Police Department, Police Inspector Jørgen Tagge declares the following to Jyllands-Posten, 26.5.97: »... refugees who give false information or who refuse to assist in their own expulsion will have their pocket money withdrawn », that is, all the 527 kroner supposed to cover all expenses to clothes, transportation and other things, which leaves the refugees at subsistence level, where they only receive food and housing.
For instance, a number of refugees refuse to inform the police of their escape route, just as many withhold personal information out of fear that the authorities do not think that the political prosecution and civil war are sufficiently well documented.
This criminalization and humiliation of refugees is criticized by the Danish red Cross as well as by Dansk Flygtningehjælp (a humanitarian organization dedicated to assisting refugees).
Inge Dahl-Sørensen from Venstre, however, demands that all refugees thus criminalized be interned without further ado. As she declares to Jyllands-Posten: »By internment, those we have rejected are prevented from getting extra income through crime. At length, their stay will not be very pleasant. As this is rumoured throughout the world, the stream of refugees will be limited.« (21.5.97).
Spokesmen for Somalians in Denmark: Report on the conditions in Somalia was ordered by the government
A report from the Immigration Service on the conditions in Somalia points out so-called safe areas in the devastated country to which Somalian refugees can be »returned«.
According to Mohammed Gelle, spokesman for Somalians in Denmark, the report does not purvey a truthful picture of the conditions; on the contrary, it is inspired by the Danish government with the ill-concealed agenda of legitimating the rejection of Somalian refugees. Gelle states to Politiken: »I cannot understand how they can consider it safe to send people to an area like Middle Shabelle when the riots continue in Mogadishu? These two areas are no farther apart than Roskilde and Copenhagen.« (2.6.97).
Human rights report: Increasing racism in Scandinavia
The annual human rights report from the International Helsinki Committee warns again the steadily increasing racism in Scandinavia.
»Racist behaviour against dark-skinned refugees and immigrants is more and more common«, remarks the report according to Information (25.6.97). Furthermore, the report quotes the UN Committee for the Extermination of Racial Discrimination which concludes that »intolerance towards refugees and immigrants was increasing [in 1996] in Danmark.«
Klaus Rothstein from Dansk Flygtningehjælp confirms the report's criticism: »There is an increased national chauvinism and, consequently, racism.«
Professor of political science: The politicians drag debate on refugees to the right
Lise Togeby, professor of political science at the University of Aarhus, has studied the debate on foreigners since the early eighties and believes the politicians have been changing the debate radically for the last 15 years. »The great shift came in the winter 1984-85 when the Progress Party (Danish: Fremskridtspartiet, a populistically oriented »no-tax« party to the right) made foreigners a main theme and many more refugees started arriving. »Until then the debate was about protecting the refugees and guaranteeing their rights,« says Lise Togeby. Instead the debate came to be about refugees being a strain on society, about them being refugees of commodity cheating their way into Denmark and hauling money out of the Treasury.« (Politiken, 28.6.97).
Professor Togeby believes that the shift is caused by the whole right wing: »The large conservative parties have clearly changed their rhetoric and are now sceptical of refugees and immigrants. These parties are considered decent, and that has made negative attitudes towards refugees and immigrants more acceptable.«
Urban renewal project in Copenhagen: Mosque is removed
The Urban Renewal Society of the City of Copenhagen has asked some Moroccan tenants in some premises owned by the society to move out at once. The Moroccans use the premises as a mosque. The reason for terminating the lease appears to be complaints from some of the neighbours which have felt bothered by the use of a megaphone during the Friday prayers. Mimoun Idrisi, member of the executive committee of the mosque, comments: »We really don't use a megaphone. On Fridays - and only on Fridays - our imam uses a microphone for half an hour, and the sound is neither sent out of the windows or something like that, but to two small loudspeakers.« (Berlingske Tidende, 18.7.97).
Hamid El Mousti, member of the City Council, also finds it difficult to understand the intolerance of the Urban Renewal Society and states to the same newspaper: »I can live with the bells of Savior's Church ringing every Sunday.«
Denmark ignores UN convention guidelines on ethnic equality
Denmark's official report to the UN about ethnic equality gives a rose-colored picture of the Danish initiatives in this area. In the meantime, the Center for Documentation and Counseling on Racial Discrimination have submitted their own exposition to the UN since they believe the conditions in Denmark are far more problematic than implied by the official report.
In the alternative report, the human rights organization enumerates a number of examples of conditions which are at variance with the UN. This includes quotas for ethnic minorities in schools and apartments in certain neighbourhoods; the failure of the police to investigate racial discrimination; discrimination at the occupation of certain positions where Danish citizenship is required; foreigners who have been denied loans from financial companies and have problems buying mobile phones and renting cars; and problems with the approval of children's names. (Berlingske Tidende, 25.7.97).
Many Danish police chiefs do not know the legislation against racism
The humanitarian organization Red Barnet (»save the child«) has, according to Politiken on 2.8.97, recently had an extremely unpleasant experience with the forces of law and order in connection with a racist assault against some Somalian children who were on the organization's summer camp at Rødvig.
According to John Reinstein, participant in the summer camp and refugee consultant for Red Barnet, Danish youngsters ravaged the house, where the children were, shouting: »Throw out those black bastards!« Naturally, the people responsible for the camp contacted the police station in Køge but received the answer that they could not manage to help them, »and if there's a problem with that they could always complain to the minister of Justice.«
Erik Bjørn of the Køge police explains the procedure: »If people expect that we can mobilize 30 man on Midsummer Eve in order to protect a group of children, they have to think again.«
»We've become insecure about the police ... If this had been Somalian youngsters attacking Danes, the police reaction would probably be different«, John Reinstein believes.
And indeed it seems that the general attitude to racism in the police precincts is quite indifferent.
On August 1, 1997, Berlingske Tidende writes that several Danish police chiefs do not even know the legislation regarding racial discrimination which, among other things, means that many alleged violations never reach court. Thus 24 reports in 1996 only led to three convictions.
The experience of the lawyer Henrik Karl Nielsen in this field is not encouraging: »I have cases where police chiefs who had received reports about violations of the laws against racism contact me and ask which law this is. In other cases the police refuse to accept reports on totally inadequate grounds. When the police are not even aware of the law's existence we have a problem,« he says to the same newspaper.
People are secondary while the economy prevails in the discussion of a new special agreement for repatriating Somalian asylum-seekers
The heated polemics surrounding Minister of the Interior Birte Weiss' agreement with local clan leaders in northern Somalia is, because of the coupling to financial aid, characterized by moral admonitions to the minister, where some people even speak of »traffic in persons«.. But in the end the dominating argument of the opposition is economical, that is, »the price per Somalian is too high«, as it is put in an editorial in Information, 26.8.97.
Helge Adam Møller, the conservative spokesman of justice, points out in Politiken 23.8.97, that »this is an unusually bad bargain.« Furthermore, he unfolds the bogey of Denmark as a literal flypaper if the government's procedure is to be followed. »If we pay three quarters of a million for repatriating one asylum-seeker, it is clear that we will become an even greater magnet to refugees than we already are.«
In the same way, Birthe Rønn Hornbech, the spokesman of justice for Venstre, is not as worried about the fate of the rejected Somalian as about the Danish money - and voters: »I think our voters will agree that paying 50 million kroner for sending home 60 asylum-seekers would be lunacy,« she says to the same newspaper.
In Berlingske Tidende on 28.8.97 Pia Kjærsgaard, president of Dansk Folkeparti (the Danish People's Party) complains that »money is spent from the Ministry of Development in order to repatriate 60 people who have no right to asylum in this country anyway.«
Birte Weiss, however, knows how to answer the opposition in their own coin and threatens that more Somalian refugees may arrive if the government's proposal is not put into practice, so that refugees might be repatriated: »If this ends with the conservative parties putting a spoke in the wheel I have no doubt that really many people will apply for asylum in Denmark (...) If Denmark can't send asylum-seekers back, those who want to stay in Europe will naturally make for Denmark,« she comments to Politiken on 25.8.97.
The promise of comprehensive financial aid to the areas is, according to the statements of the government and the repeated assurances of the minister of the Interior, independent of the repatriation agreement and presumably only that part is to be annulled if Parliament cancels the agreement, as it would seem it will. And therefore the government insists - perhaps in order not to lose face in this case - that everything continue as planned in spite of the political opposition. According to Berlingske Tidende on 24.8.97, the work continues unimpeded. The National Police is already preparing the procedure. It is hoped that the first 11 Somalians may be set on a plane as early as September. Hans- Viggo Jensen from the National Police says: »I stick to the return agreement, and it's running according to the schedule«. On August 26, 1997 Berlingske Tidende is able to report that the National Police and the Danish aliens attaché also have submitted the files of the 11 Somalians to the local authorities. Claes Nilas of the Immigration Service is quite hopeful: »After the agreement they have three weeks to react. If there is no reaction from them the next three weeks, Denmark will have the right to deport the people in question.«
»We won't give op the plan,« assures minister of Development Poul Nielson in Politiken on 23.8.97 »In the end we find it hard to imagine that this first regular attempt to get the repatriation going should be blocked politically,« he explains.
The steadfast indifference of the minister of Development, of the minister of the Interior as well as of the rest of the government does not solely defy the warnings of the opposition, which are merely due to the economical disadvantage. It also defies international warnings about the human risks involved.
Thus Henrik Olesen, a former director of the Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC) warns about the conditions in Somalia in Jyllands-Posten on 20.8.97: »Denmark has been negotiating with mere 'warlords', so if the money is not transferred and the Somalians are repatriated anyway I should definitely not like to be on that plane.«
This has no effect. The human costs are not on the authorities' mind. Nor do the warnings and fear of the Somalians meet any sympathy with Birte Weiss or the rest of the government.
On August 16, 1997, Mohamed Moge, a Midgaan - a member of the absolutely lowest class in Somalia, like the Indian pariahs without any right - and one of the first to be repatriated, says: »I'm afraid I'll get shot if I go home (...) First of all, I fled to Ethiopia. Then to Russia and through Berlin to Denmark. I'm not returning to Somalia voluntarily now. My whole family have fled from Haregesia in Somaliland. I don't know anybody there and refugees are considered traitors.«
In his case the National Police will probably carry out an »accompanied repatriation«, that is, he will be guarded by a policemen in the plane.
Smear campaign against ritual slaughtering
On August 19, 1997, the Animal's Day's Committee launch a nationwide campaign advocating a ban on the special method of slaughtering where the animal's throat artery is cut, thus making it the it bleed to death; a technique used by both Jews and Muslims for religious reasons.
Large advertisements with the headline »Stop Ritual Slaughtering« is inserted in several newspapers. On a black and white drawing smeared with blood red printing ink an injured cow is depicted as victim of the operation.
In the advertisement the association calls the ritual method a »gross violation of the Animal Protection Act« because »the animals suffer for a long time after their throat is cut.« Aarhus Stiftstidende has apparently also been carried away by the campaign and backs it up in an editorial on the same day.
Peter Mollerup, director of the Association for the Protection of Animals, is no more worried than the Animal's Day's Committee about the consequent offence against the religious minorities: »It's possible that the religious minorities will be put under a psychological pressure if they can no longer slaughter without anesthesia but we can't be bothered by that,« he emphasizes in Kristeligt Dagblad on 20.8.97.
Even though any talk of »suffering« is completely absurd from any conceivable objective assessment, 60 seconds of a cow's death are nonetheless capable of making high-ranking politicians as well as outraged animal's friends demand that the constitutional freedom of religion be disregarded, with the consequent violation of the religious feelings of tens of thousands of human beings.
Any and all claims that the target of the campaign is not the religious minorities but the well-being of the animals become increasingly grotesque if one considers the normal death of Danish pigs - without objections from the Animal's Day's Committee.
On August 21, 1997, Peter Sandøe, chairman of the Council for Animal Ethics, explains to Aarhus Stiftstidende how the industrially produced Danish bacon usually meets its end: »Before they die, the pigs experience stress and panic. Pain is actually inflicted upon them with the electric rods when they are driven forward to the slaughter. A production level of several hundred pigs an hour means that the employees are so pressed that the suffering of the animals becomes an abstract concept.«
In this way 19 million pigs are slaughtered each year in the ordinary, industrial assembly line manner. The Animal's Day's Committee finds no occasion to suggest a ban in this connection and nobody launches nationwide collections of signatures even though the very Danish agriculture is both killing and mass producing millions of animals, exactly as mechanically and indifferently as had it been nuts and bolts - right from they are born to they end their existence on the happy consumer's grounds in the refrigerated counters of the local supermarket.
The slaughtering methods of the Jews and Muslims can obviously hardly meet these standards of »humanitarian« treatment and the intention of the collection of signatures is to create a literal popular demand for banning ritual slaughtering - and only ritual slaughtering.
This is not without precedent, however. The first time such a prohibition was attempted was in 1942. At that time the proposal came from the Nazi leader Fritz Clausen.
The election campaign before the local elections: Manipulation with the refugee's significance the economy
Denmark faces local elections and most politicians agree about the main topic of the elections: Refugees.
Minister of the Interior Birte Weiss states that the average cost of receiving an asylum-seeker and considering his case carefully is about 93,000 kroner. The politicians completely neglect the fact that the money does not exactly disappear from the economy but among other things support and employ a number of case officers, interpreters (about two thirds of the costs) and other staff for instance in connection with accommodation (one third of the costs).
Another effective number constructed by Dansk Folkeparti on occasion of the electoral campaign, this time with the help of Statistics Denmark, is the astronomical 30,000,000,000; receiving and taking care of refugees is supposed to »cost« Danish society 30 billion kroner a year. Or at least that is the result of this grand total of the expenses for refugees in the social system, the legal system, the education system the hospital system and various welfare arrangements.
Such a number becomes less interesting and effective, however, if it is taken into account that it is a pure gross amount, that is, it only counts the expenses without taking any account of how much money actually returns as taxes, VAT, duties and so forth. Meanwhile the results of a large research project at South Jutland University Center is awaited; according to Berlingske Tidende, this project has decided to investigate the net balance of society's expenses and profits from the ethnic minorities. So far, everything seems to indicate that the net balance contrary to all concerns is positive. »Immigrants are valuable for Danish society,« as is stated in the business section of Berlingske Tidende on 2.8.97. At least that is the opinion of chief researcher Jan Hjarnø.
»The kiosks, fruit shops, and all the other typical small businesses owned by immigrants are an essential reason why 'the foreigners' are not the economical strain on society that many Danes imagine. On the contrary immigration makes a positive contribution to the economic development.« According to Jan Hjarnø, this is primarily due to the fact that many immigrants become independent. While the number of self-employed Danes is below ten percent, by way of example 35 percent of the adult Pakistani residents are self-employed. The same is true of 20 percent of the Turks.
The »fear« of immigrants and refugees rapidly increasing because of media campaigns
A survey made by the Institute for Analysis of Conjectures shows that more than one in three Danes are concerned about »the foreigners«.. The concern is greatest among the voters of the conservative parties, while the dear is greatest among Danes with no formal education. Only about one in six Danes are unconcerned. According to the survey, these number are not proportional to the size of the »problem«. On the contrary media campaigns and the increasing acceptance of negative comments on the behavior of »foreigners« are given as main reasons for the change of attitude. (Source: Information, 12.9.97).
The Conservative Party: »The Danish national community« does not include refugees
As the legislation is now, a temporary residence permit may be withdrawn at any time the first three years no matter how integrated or well-adjusted; the decision resides solely with the Refugee Board. This arrangement is of imminent interest for thousands of Somalian refugees whom more and more politicians want to send to Somalia - against appeals from the UN.
But the Conservative Party's proposal for changes in the asylum policy which has formed the basis of their negotiations with the government contains, among other things, a suggestion of prolonging this period to seven years, according to Jyllands-Posten on 4.9.97.
The conservative leader Per Stig Møller explains the proposal - including, among other things, fewer refugees, no right to family reunification, forced Danish teaching and no right to teaching in the mother tongue in schools - with reference to something he calls the »Danish national community«: »We can't accept that Denmark comes unstuck in a lot of different subcultures and ghettoes (...) so that the Danish national community would disappear,« he says in Aarhus Stifttidende on 4.9.97. Who exactly is included in the threatened »national community« cannot be learned from the article. In continuation of the line of thought of his chairman, the party's vice chairman Søren Møller has proposed that in order to prevent refugees with the same ethnic background from seeking together in particular geographical areas, these people should be deprived of their right to take up residence anywhere in the country; at least for the first seven years, after which they may qualify for becoming »real« Danish citizens, Information reports on 17.9.97.
Racism is an everyday occurrence in Denmark of today
It is an almost trivial fact that refugees in Denmark are almost daily exposed to racist, discriminating and other kinds of defamatory and crudely generalizing statements and allegations from people on the street as well as from various media and that they are consistently discriminated against in the labor market and by the authorities.
Nonetheless, the involved parties have no real chance of getting anywhere with these cases since the only way of complaining is by reporting it to the police, and this often fails either because the police are ignorant of the legislation in this field or do not use it - or because the burden of proof cannot be lifted.
The Documentation and Advisory Center on Racial Discrimination receives, according to the center's jurist, a small fraction of the cases, some 1000 inquiries a year.
A horticultural society refuses to admit Danish citizens of immigrant origin
The horticultural society DANO in Rødovre refuses to sell allotments to Danes with an immigrant background. »You have to be born in Denmark if you want to buy,« is the unambiguous message from Leo Valnæs, its chairman, to a Danish citizen of immigrant origin (Berlingske Tidende, 28.9.97). But Danish citizenship was not enough. After the story had been on the front page of Berlingske Tidende, only a day goes by before it »turns out« that this was a mistake. Now the prohibition is »only« against foreigners without Danish citizenship.
Shell refuses to let out cars to immigrants and refugees
The gasoline giant Shell lets out cars from the company Herz. That is - not to anybody. This is shown by a spot test performed by Politiken (28.9.97). On 30 percent of the Shell stations which received a call, individuals with foreign-sounding names and similar accent were turned down when they wanted to rent a car, even though they did meet the standard requirements for car hirers - the reason was that »unfortunately« no cars were left.
Seconds later, when the journalists let another »hirer«, this time with a Danish-sounding name and no accent, call and ask the same employee if there were any vacant cars, there are suddenly many cars which may be let out to the costumer right away. According to former employees that Politiken had spoken to, this procedure is also quite normal in other companies like for instance Europcar/Østergaard biler.
In this case, as in many others, the explanation from Shell's Danish public relations manager is of course that it is a misunderstanding; she promises to reprimand the culprits. And the case is apparently closed.
According to the Documentation and Advisory Center on Racial Discrimination, cases of this sort arrive continuously which also involve banks, livings and the labor market, among others. (Berlingske Tidende, 30.9.97).
The Progress Party: Use the military against the »flood of refugees «
Critics of the Danish asylum policy believe it is too lenient so that Denmark supposedly becomes a »magnet for refugees«, like for example Helge Adam Møller, the conservative spokesman of justice, in Politiken on 23.8.97.
The Progress Party has even requested that the military be called in against what is picturesquely coined the »flood of refugees« (Berlingske Tidende, 15.9.97) which it is feared may escalate now that Germany has initiated a major deportation of refugees from the Baltic States.
On September 16, 1997, Ekstra Bladet has an interview with a local frontier guard, Niels Jens Hansen from the Hinterland Patrol. He states that »practically all the refugees currently swarming over Denmark's borders are refugees of commodity.« A statement made before even one of these refugees has had his case considered.
The frontier guard adds: »I can also feel my own distrust of the foreigners growing almost day by day. «
For the same reason Danish nazis have attempted to organize a voluntary corps to help the police keeping unbidden refugees away from the Danish border, according to Berlingske Tidende. (21.9.97).
Asylum-seekers have to deserve a permanent residence permit
On October 1, 1997, Berlingske Tidende is able to relate that the Danish government has set up a committee of experts to investigate the possibilities for - to the widest possible extent - preventing refugees from obtaining a permanent residence permit. It can be done by introducing the concept of »temporary protection« in the Aliens Act. Another aspect of the new strategy may be an extension of the time of a temporary permit from three to five years. But the government's own minister of Economy characterized a proposal to extend the period to seven years as »very, very cynical« in Berlingske Tidende as late as 21.9.97.
Minister of the Interior Birte Weiss explains that refugees must now deserve the permanent residence permit: »We believe that some minimum requirements must be met in order to obtain a permanent residence permit. First of all a not too blemished criminal records and a documented motivation to learn Danish.« (Aktuelt, 8.10.97).
»Our point of departure is that refugees and immigrants must be regarded as a resource ... There are many resourceful people among them,« the minister continues. In spite of her own optimism, some uncertainty exists of how the new incentives are to be understood - let alone how they are to be put into practice. And questions like the ones posed in Information's News Analysis on 8.10.97 are pretty obvious: »Will Danish civil servants have to walk around in UN's prison camps and inspect the Negroes' teeth and hands? ... Will the Immigration Service in cases of family reunification - in addition to the present assessment of whether the spouse living here can maintain the foreign husband or wife - have to evaluate the newcomer's level of education? Or reading skills? Or suitability for manual work? Or state of health?«
Tightening the Aliens Act
In Berlingske Tidende on October 14, 1997, Klaus Rothstein from the Danish Refugee Council enumerates 18 changes of the laws regarding asylum over the Las five years which have all complicated the situation of asylum-seekers in Denmark.
On 21.10.97 Jyllands-Posten is also able to enumerate no less than 13 important tightenings of the asylum policy just in the period where Birte Weiss were minister.
During her administration of the asylum policy, it has thus become more difficult to appeal a rejection of asylum; documentation of the maintenance ability has become mandatory if a foreign partner is to obtain a residence permit; the maximum punishment for helping refugees enter the country illegally has been raised more than 30 percent; the time where the authorities can withdraw a given asylum has been extended; routine imprisonment of certain asylum-seekers has been implemented; a comprehensive registration of fingerprints has been initiated, with linkage to similar European registers; deportation has been introduced as an exclusive special punishment against refugees for certain offences; DNA analyses and DNA registration of asylum-seekers have been introduced as well as the possibility of implementing economic sanctions against refugees refusing to assist in their own repatriation - and so forth.
New Danish minister of the Interior: Some immigrants exploit our liberal legislation
On October 20 Poul Nyrup Rasmussen to everybody's surprise appoint a new minister of the Interior: Aarhus' mayor Thorkild Simonsen, well-known for his controversial attitude towards further tightening of the asylum policy.
It soon turns out that the former mayor has actually been a pioneer for a number of the key issues which are normally considered the property of the extreme right.
»The time has come for saying things clearly. Some immigrants are exploiting our liberal legislation. They are cheating us,« Simonsen assured, according to Jyllands-Posten, as early as 1993 when speaking of Turkish immigrants - with the addition: »For them, it would have been better if they had stayed in their home country.«
According to the same newspaper, he stated as early as 1994 of the right-wing politician Mogens Glistrup, the founder of the Progress Party: »But I'm afraid Glistrup is beginning to be right. I didn't like his vehement expressions, but many have arrived now. I'd like to take some of the blame that he was rejected. I was one of those who didn't believe that so many foreigners would arrive, and that there would be so many that there would be problems. Today I may say it without getting into trouble - I don't have to be reelected, you see, I will soon retire as politician.« However, he became the new minister of the Interior.
Thorkild Simonsen also led the way when five mayors sent a recommendation to then minister of the Interior Birte Weiss, where they demanded, among other things, that »further initiatives be taken in order to limit the number of refugees arriving to Denmark. Thus, the Government should consider tightening the rules of asylum as regards refugees fleeing from war or poverty and who are not personally persecuted ... that a further tightening of the rules of asylum and family reunification be considered in order to prevent them from being abused ... that new initiatives be taken in order to improve the geographic distribution of refugees.«
In his last days as mayor of Aarhus, Simonsen suggested that it might be possible to »place« refugees, mainly Somalians - which, what is more, already had been granted asylum and lived in Aarhus - in huts outside the city limit: »Actually four refugee villages (collections of temporary huts used for housing refugees) are vacant in the County of Aarhus, as he explained in Ekstra Bladet on 7.10.97. And to Berlingske Tidende around the same time: »If the Somalians are here temporarily, it would be better to place them there, thus making better use of the vacant housing stock.«
Mayor: We »weed out« among residents from »the hot countries«
The minister of the Interior introduces the idea of taking away the task of integration and assignment of housing for refugees and instead leaving this authority - and the corresponding public funds - to the local authorities.
As regards the assignment of housing, a recent case has given a clear impression of how some municipalities intend to handle this responsibility. In many towns the local authorities have already taken over the assignment of housing in the property of selected housing societies. Typically the local authorities have - in accordance with the law - made an agreement with a local housing society and taken over the assignment of all apartments in a building. But the case is that after that they suspend all the normal waiting lists and set their very own criteria for who is to get an apartment and who is not, according to Berlingske Tidende on 9.11.97..
Mayor Kjeld Rasmussen (Social Democrats) of Brøndby comments this practice to the same newspaper: »Now I'm sitting with our housing committee and renting apartments. And since February, not one individual from the hot countries has entered Brøndby Nord. We're also throwing out all the criminal idiots if they don't behave. We're weeding out for the benefit of the citizens and the housing societies. The citizens have a right to keep the Danish housing environment.«
We're weeding out.
»It's a success,« exclaims Anders Bak (Social Democrats), mayor in Høje Taastrup, to the same newspaper. »The purpose is to change the resident profile. This typically means, of course, that we will not introduce any refugees or immigrants because there's a lot of them already. And we've stopped the awkward development.« Generally, all of the municipalities find the effect so convincing that they attempt to extend the arrangement to all building societies. And with the aid of the minister of the Interior they appear to succeed.
In the opinion of Morten Kjærum, director of the Danish Center for Human Rights, the development in the municipalities is a striking infringement of human rights: »It doesn't matter if they plead even so objective criteria. Discrimination is measured by its effect,« he explains to Berlingske Tidende on 9.11.97
The minister of the Interior wants to »motivate« refugees by lowering their Social Security benefit
In connection with the government's latest initiative in the asylum policy, according to which refugees need to be »motivated« to learn Danish and get a job by cutting 25 percent off their monthly Social Security benefit, Arne Piel Christensen, Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council writes in Berlingske Tidende on 17.11.97:
»It is food for thought that they seem to believe the reason for the refugee's unemployment is inactivity when more than 200,000 Danes are still unemployed and many more on transfer payment. Here we do not hear proposals of introducing quite different levels of payment in order to motivate them to take the jobs which do not exist (...) If refugees are given a lower level than the population at large, you have introduced A-persons with certain rights and B-persons with others (...) Besides, it is interesting that in connection with the requirements for family reunification a minimum family income corresponding to twice the Social Security benefit since it is considered a minimum. With a suggestion of a lower payment you introduce a different and lower subsistence level - for some people.«
Somalian vice minister: Somalian refugees are treated like the Jews in the years preceding World War 2
The prime minister has in many contexts assured his voters that you are not really a racist just because you are »concerned« over the »foreigners«. »Denmark must be a country where people in distress are helped,« was thus, according to Berlingske Tidende on 17.11.97, the prime minister's vision at an election meeting in Hillerød - after the »but« which is so obligatory in the current debate - by the just as inevitable assurance that followed: »it will require a guarantee that illegal immigration be terminated and that it is made clear that crime doesn't pay.«
What kind of ambient does this create against refugees which stay in Denmark on totally legal grounds if the prime minister himself makes this kind of statements?
In contrast to this stand the statements of a vice minister from a Somalian delegation visiting Denmark. Mahamad Hassan Geeleh put it plainly: »For the moment Somalian refugees are not treated well in Denmark- they are treated like the Jews in the years preceding World War 2. At that time as well it all started when a small group of people were turned into a scapegoat for social problems of which they had no control or responsibility, and then things started developing.«
The international press is shocked by the treatment of foreigners in Denmark
According to Berlingske Tidende on November 1, 1997, a suspicion has been spreading south of the border that »the outbreak of Danish national feeling is not as innocent as it seems.« In that connection, the German Newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau is quoted: »Nothing more than a weekend with 30 persons detained for crossing the border illegally was needed to create panic in Denmark. The right wing started screaming about using the military or demanded the purchase of parachutes for throwing deported refugees over their home countries,« the newspaper's Copenhagen correspondent reports, to which he adds: »Even the government leaded by the Social Democrats swallow the refugee hysteria.«
The likewise German Frankfurter Allgemeine observes that prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen is confronted with massive demands for the Aliens policy which has become the most important topic in »cozy Denmark«.
The astonishment over the development in Denmark is not limited to our closest neighbors, however. The French newspaper Liberation thus also has to conclude that »the plague of xenophobia has hit Denmark«. Liberation's special correspondent wonders how the fear of foreigners can become an election theme when there are so few foreigners in Denmark's and is quite shocked when she tells of a bus ride in Aarhus, where the Somalian she was with was told by a blond Dane that she cannot sit down because she is black; and similarly about a meeting with a Danish politician who seems to believe that a scratch in the car is worse if it is made by a Bosnian boy than if it were made by a Danish boy. »But no, the politician is no racist, of course«, is the journalist's sharp comment. (Source: Jyllands-Posten on 19.11.97).
The French newspaper also quickly notices the striking contrast between the Denmark that displays »this brutal xenophobia« and the »human rights« Denmark drawing attention to itself internationally. »This brutal xenophobia is all the much more striking because it appears in a place where you would not expect it. In a kingdom which stands as a severe judge of human rights ... and where scarcely 4,4 percent of the population are foreigners,« writes Liberation according to Berlingske Tidende on 20.11.97.
In a large four-column article on the front page of the International Herald Tribune the headline is, according to Jyllands-Posten on 19.11.97: »A xenophobic weed is growing in Denmark's little decent garden. The newspaper observes, according to Berlingske Tidende on 18.11.97 that Denmark »experiences a wave of aversion to refugees and immigrants.« The Herald Tribune finds it difficult to reconcile this picture of Denmark with the widespread picture of »a little place so beautiful, so well-mannered and mild that it appears like God's own little red house with a white fence in front.« But of late something has happened with little Denmark of the picture postcards, Herald Tribune observes, for »when as little as 4,5 percent of the population are foreigners, you cannot say that hordes of strangers have been creeping in over their borders ... something must apparently have happened to the tolerance of the Danes.«
The international newspaper observes that the Danish racism is unusual because it is not associated with an economic threat. »Not only is Denmark a rich country; no threat against its existence is lurking in its horizon either. With only 4,5 percent foreigners in the population no foreign hordes have entered the country, nor are any waiting at its frontiers,« the newspaper wonders.
Rejected asylum-seekers are stripped of their rights
For the time being some refugees which Denmark has refused her protection decline to »cooperate in their repatriation«, as it is said.
Former minister of the Interior Birte Weiss introduced a number of tightenings
towards asylum-seekers who were to be deported in order to press them into going back. They now only receive basic benefits such as board and lodging. And yet, for years many of them have refused to go home. Today, they also have the obligation to report to the police every morning at 8. If they do not show up, they are imprisoned, as reported by Jyllands-Posten on 3.11.97. The purpose of the duty to report daily is to »motivate« the rejected asylum-seeker to go home.
In the same newspaper Nexhat Ademi from the Kosovo province in Serbia speaks out about life in Denmark as a rejected asylum-seeker: »As an Albanian, I have no rights in Serbia. We have no possibility of getting a job or an education, and we are arrested and harassed by the police and the authorities. I myself was imprisoned and tortured, before I escaped (...) Reporting to the police every morning is humiliating. Maybe people passing by think that we have stolen something or committed other crimes.« In spite of the difficulty of having their children looked after the family has no plans of returning. Many of them suffer from headaches, lack of energy and insomnia, the newspaper reports. The rejected asylum-seekers can only hope that somebody wakes up to their situation and lets them stay in Denmark.
The human rights commissioner of the Baltic area: New asylum policy reduce human rights to citizen's rights
The first concrete proposal from the new minister of the Interior for the government's future asylum policy is now available; it both tightens the demands on and the restrictions against refugees.
The main points in the proposal for a new Aliens Act - no. L 154 - of December 17, 1997, are:
- More restrictive rules for family reunification: Immigrants cannot obtain family reunification until they have had a permanent residence permit for three years.
- Immigrants' legal claim of getting parents of more than 60 years to Denmark is abolished.
- Marriages which are set up by the family do not give the right to family reunification.
- It must continuously be evaluated whether the maintenance requirement is actually fulfilled by immigrants. For Danish citizens or refugees there are no special demands of maintenance of spouses brought here by family reunification.
- Asylum-seekers cannot obtain asylum by marrying a Danish citizen.
- Residence permit is no longer granted automatically after three years - only to foreigners who master Danish, have no debts to the authorities, and have not committed any serious crimes.
- The integration period for refugees is extended from one and a half to three years.
- The Danish classes for refugees must be combined with work or forced labor during the integration period.
- The local authorities get the responsibility of integrating the refugees instead of the Danish Refugee council, which may still be used as »contractor«.
- A special integration benefit which is 2,000 kroner less than the Social Security benefit. It is reduced by a further 20 percent if, for example, the Danish classes or forced labor are not followed.
- The Immigration Service will distribute the refugees in quotas to the counties which in turn will distribute them to the municipalities.
(Source: Jyllands-Posten, 23.1.98.)
The government's proposal is harshly criticized by the Council for Ethnic Equality which turns against the implied view of human nature, »a view of human nature, where suspicion is thrown on ethnic minorities in general,« and where these »appear as a section of the population only seen as human resources which are not exploited properly«. According to the Council, these are »obvious violations of the general principle of equality and the principle of non-discrimination inherent in the human rights.« (Jyllands-Posten, 12.12.97).
Uffe Stormgaard, chairman of the Danish Refugee Council, also point out the discrepancies when comparing with the fundamental principles of a constitutional state: »The fact that they want to give refugees a lower social benefit than the Danes ... here they depart from a principle of equality before the law.« (Ekstra Bladet on 05.12.97).
Ole Espersen, the commissioner for human rights of the Baltic Sea council, points out that the government with its proposal for a new Aliens Act is moving away from the general principle of human rights. »Human rights are human rights and not citizen's rights,« as he emphasizes in Information on 22.12.97. »As soon as fundamental human rights become citizen's rights ... you have, in my opinion, neglected the concept of human rights.«
Morten Kjærum, The director of the Danish Center for Human Rights, states that the new proposal violates the section of unhindered mobility within a country's borders contained in the UN's convention on the Status of Refugees. »At first glance it looks as if parts of the proposal violate the convention. Here it is established that everyone is free to take up residence within the country's borders, and that refugees have the same right to social benefits as other foreigners,« as he says to Information, 5.12.97. The prohibition preventing asylum-seekers from marrying is a violation of article 12 in the European human rights convention, which states that »marriageable men and women have the right to contract marriage and have a family in accordance with national laws regarding the practice this right«.. The Danish Center for Human Rights protested as early as 1992 when the former chairman of the Conservative party Hans Engell made a similar proposal.
Göran Melander, a professor of international law specializing in human rights, comments the Danish proposal to Berlingske Tidende on 7.12.97: »It is simply the most stupid thing I've ever heard. It is the most obvious infringement of all conventions and human rights.«
»Force has never been a motivational factor which promotes any inner values in a human being,« Find Gravesen of the Region for Mid- and Western Jutland of the Danish Refugee Council admonishes in Information, 6.12.97.
Discriminating Taxi Act
On May 6, 1997, 105 members of the Danish Parliament pass a new Taxi Act, according to which everybody who transports people professionally must be a Danish citizen. Only when Minister of Transport Bjørn Westh on December 16, 1997, sends out a departmental order, according to which the requirement of Danish citizenship also applies to the taxi drivers and not only to the owners of the taxis, the law is met with massive criticism. According to Morten Kjærum, director of the Danish Center for Human Rights, there is »not a shadow of doubt« that the Taxi Act violates the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination with its citizenship requirements of owners as well as drivers. (Jyllands-Posten on 9.1.98).
It is not obvious from the vague text of the Act whether it was to apply to owners or drivers, and several members of Parliament also admit that they do not know what they actually voted for.
After the severe criticism of the Taxi Act for not being in harmony with the government's integration plans, it has been attempted to explain the scandal away as a slip, and on January 12, the minister of Transport had to apologize to Parliament as well as to the foreigners that might have been affected by the now withdrawn departmental order.
That the well-known »security requirement« has been more important all along for the government than avoiding racial discrimination is quite clear when Jytte Wittrock, the Taxi spokesman of the Social Democrats, remarks: »We all knew that this Act both applied to owners and drivers. We thought that the requirement of security and service in the business would best be met by making that requirement.« (Jyllands-Posten, 9.1.98).
The leader of the Radical party (a small centrist party which forms part of the government) confesses, more repentant: »I saw that there was a prohibition against foreigners owning taxis in the Bill. And yet no alarm bell started ringing. I'm ashamed of that.« (Jyllands-Posten, 12.1.98).
Eric Timor Centi, center leader of the Center for Documentation and Counseling on Racial Discrimination, points out that the politicians are »hypocritical« since there were no protests when the law against discrimination at work was passed and the social democratic minister of Labor said that »in principle the employer can prefer a Danish citizen for a foreigner.« (Jyllands-Posten, 9.2.98).
Hidden racial discrimination is obviously impossible to control and of course it is no easier when ministers directly invite it. But everything seems to indicate that we have only glimpsed the top of the iceberg of regular racial discrimination in Danish legislation as well.
Denmark and Latvia are the countries in the Baltic region that most often use the legislation in order to keep foreigners away from certain jobs. »The tendency in the other countries is opposite. Here the trend is to drop the requirement of citizenship for all positions,« says Ole Espersen who has asked the Danish government to investigate Denmark's use of the requirement of citizenship. (Berlingske Tidende on 11.1.98).
Asylum-seekers escape from Denmark
The picture of the cozy little Danish corner as the destination of all »refugees of commodity« in the world is definitely cracking when the German hinterland patrol reports that several hundreds of asylum-seekers escape from Denmark to Germany each year. Only the last five years more than 2,000 refugees from Denmark have been arrested by German police. (Aarhus Stiftstidende, 8.1.98).
The Governments proposal for a new Aliens Act is criticized as undemocratic, sloppy, covert and in violation of human rights and UN conventions
Undemocratic and sloppy
The general illegibility and impenetrability of the Bill is criticized consistently; primarily because it does not contain parallel texts giving the current legislation. A practice which is used in 99,9 percent of all laws, according to the chairman of the Judge's Association, Jens Schiøler.
The Lawyer's Council also backs the criticism: »I have two reasons to think the democratic process has been eliminated. One is that this bill is so difficult to read that it is actually reserved for a very smalle group og specialized experts, and that is in itself undemocratic. The other is that it is being pulled through in a slovenly fashion,« comments Steen Bech, jurist in the Lawyer's Council. (Jyllands- Posten, 16.1.98).
Considerable doubt is spread regarding minister of the Interior Thorkild Simonsen's integrity and actual intentions in this matter which he was hurried in to pull through.
»I think that the minister has made it so unclear on purpose so that people cannot find out what this law is all about. I demand a new Bill which we can read,« says Birthe Rønn Hornbech of Venstre to Jyllands-Posten on 15.1.98.
Søren Søndergaard from Enhedslisten intensifies the criticism in the same newspaper: »There is now doubt that somebody wants to hide something. If a large number of people realize what this is all about, an outcry will be raised.«
The next day Søndergaard sketches the opportunities for abuse of power: »The Minister of the Interior has made an incomprehensible integration Act where he permits himself to lay down rules without consulting Parliament no less than 15 places, in the so-called authorization sections.«
In the same newspaper, Anne Baastrup from Socialistisk Folkeparti is also aware of the problem: »The Aliens Act is incoherent words, and the Integration Act is full of inconsiderate holes and an awful lot of authorizations with no restrictions. That means the minister can do anything he wants. This is far out.«
Violates the UN convention of Status of Refugees
The Government's plans of introducing a lower »integration benefit« for refugees violates article 23 in the UN convention of refugees, according to which the signing nations have committed themselves to give recognized refugees, in Denmark the so-called »conventional refugees«, »the same treatment as the country's own citizens as regards public support and benefits.« This is established by the Danish Center for Human Rights in its response to the law, according to Information on 17.1.98.
Violates human rights
The wish of tightening the rules for contracting marriage is also met with severe criticism. In the Bill we read:
»§ 11a. A foreigner may only marry in this country if the person in question has legal residence according to §§ 1-4 and 5, subsection 2 in the Aliens Act, or as a consequence of a residence permit according to §§ 6-9 in the same Act.
Subsection 2. Under very special circumstances, especially in cases of prolonged stay in this country, the authorities may grant permission for marriage even though the requirement in subsection 1 is not met.«
In the remarks to the Bill, the following reason is given:
»As a part of the fight against the abuse of the rules of the Aliens Act, the government wishes to prevent pro forma marriages. Therefore it is proposed that the rules for contracting and dissolving marriages are changed so that foreigners whose stay in Denmark is merely temporary while their application for a residence permit is considered cannot contract marriage.«
On the other hand we have:
1) The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which Denmark signed in 1972. Here we read, among other things:
»In compliance with the fundamental obligations laid down in article 2 of
this Convention, States Parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate
racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of
everyone, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic
origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the
(...) (iv) The right to marriage and choice of spouse.«
2) The Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948, article 16:
»1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race,
nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family.
They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at
3) The European Convention on Human Rights, article 12 and 14:
»12. Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and to found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right (...)
14. The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.«
A lot will undoubtedly depend upon the administration of § 11a subsection 2, a ion which was not present in the government's original proposition but was added after the Bill had been published.
The Lawyer Gunner Homann of the Lawyer's Council comments to Aktuelt on 22.1.98: »If we imagined section 11a without subsection 2, it would definitely violate the convention. Now they try to work around this violation by creating a possibility of exemption which is so opaque that nobody knows when the possibility would exist - or whether this violates the convention or not (...) I don't believe that the exemptions will be administrated such that we won't violate the conventions.«
The judgement of Gunnar Homann is supported in the same newspaper by the lawyer and human rights expert Thyge Trier, who adds: »And as a Dane I have to say that this Bill sends the somewhat unfortunate signal that foreigners cannot be trusted. In my opinion that is the underlying assumption.«
Ole Espersen, commissioner of human rights and former minister of Justice, is also concerned, especially about the legal protection of the refugees: »We're talking of people whose chances of appealing their case are very small because they are often deported before all appeal courts have finished considering their case.«
Both the Danish Refugee Council and the Danish Center for Human Rights consider the rule that asylum-seekers may not marry to be on the edge of violating human rights, and the importance of the controversial exemption possibility emphasized. (Information on 17.1.98).
The Danish government's legislation has also attracted attention abroad. By way of example, Sukhdev Sharma, director of the British Center for Racial Equality, was shocked, to say the least, according to Aktuelt on 22.1.98. Sharma foresees that »Denmark will become a pariah in the EU« if the proposal of limiting asylum-seekers' right to marry is not changed. Sukhdev Sharma also draws attention to the fact that the EU had designated 1997 as the »European Year against Racism«: »In 1997 everybody has been talking about moving forward from 1997 in the fight against racism and ethnic discrimination. With this proposal, Denmark is going backwards instead.«
The Prime Minister: Special expert group against cheating foreigners
In his first status over the general election, prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen announced a »showdown with those immigrants and refugees who swindle with the Danish welfare system,« according to Politiken on 28.2.98. In the same newspaper the spokesman of the Radical Liberal Party on matters of justice explains the essence of his party's aliens politics like this: »We have one general headline in the electoral campaign. We're tracking down swindling and cheating. It has to be stopped.«
In the previously mentioned article the prime minister continues: »In the future they will be countered by a special group of experts who will specialize in uncovering those foreigners who moonlight or receive Danish welfare benefits while owning real estate in their native country.«
A special group of experts specializing in uncovering foreigners. So this is an initiative directed specifically against a group of Danes who are characterized by not sharing ethnic, cultural or linguistic background or certain genetically determined traits like skin color with the majority of the population, and who must now be prosecuted with a special zeal.
In the existing legislation, the law which states that refugees sentenced for violations of the Narcotics Act may be deported is an expression of the same discrimination. The same is true of the fact that a simple traffic offence which for a Dane might mean a small fine or a temporary suspension of the driving license for refugees entails the exclusive punishment of having the right to apply for a Danish citizenship is suspended for years. (Politiken on 23.2.98). In this category must obviously also be included the regulations - by the authorities referred to as »motivational provisions« - which are solely intended to put pressure on, stress or simply harass refugees who refuse to co-operate with the authorities. That is at least what Kim U. Kjær, expert on asylum law from the Danish Center for Human Rights, thinks according to Information on 1.2.98.
Preventive custody is to a large extent used as a »motivational provision«; that is, preventive custody of persons who are neither convicted for nor charged with criminal offences. The so-called »duty of reporting« is also considered efficient for this purpose. Here the police may oblige a refugee soliciting asylum that he must report to a police station every day, often far away from the center where the refugee is placed, even though there might be a police station closer by. The punishment for refusing this daily humiliation is the immediate deprivation of any and all economic aid.
By Jeppe Berg Sandvej, Jakob Stensgaard and Rune Engelbreth Larsen