Denmark’s parliament may be changing, but its anti-immigration policies are not

Denmark’s left-wing party has won 48 out of 179 seats in the June 2019 elections, beating the country’s main far-right party. 

The Social Democrat Party, however, had to adopt anti-immigration policies that are popular among the Danish voters, in an attempt to win back working-class voters. Its leader, 41-year-old Mette Frederiksen, will now likely become Denmark’s second female prime minister.

During the campaigning period, Frederiksen adopted the tough policies introduced by the country’s right-wing government, including confiscating jewellery from asylum seekers, banning Islamic face veils, and seeking harsher criminal penalties for perpetrators in migrant ghettoes.

“The Social Democrats lost four out of five elections this century because of the immigration issue,” said Kristian Madsen, a political analyst, on the New York Times.

Denmark has been accepting fewer asylum applications since the migrant crisis in Europe in 2015. According to the updated data provided by Danish ministry of immigration, Denmark granted asylum to only 35 per cent of applicants in 2017 while the figures stood at 72 per cent in 2016 and 85 per cent in 2015.

Michala Clante Bendixen, chair of Refugees Welcome, which offers free legal advice to asylum seekers, told the Financial Times that she could no longer see the difference between the liberals and conservatives on immigration. “This is what makes my work hopeless. No matter what government we get, there will not be a change in policy. And they are extreme policies.” 

The country detains failed applicants before deporting them back home. Its tough and strict immigration rules have caused significant decline in number of asylum seekers, with 3,500 applications in 2017, compared to 21,000 in 2015.

In an interview with Reuters, Ali Adnan said he arrived in Denmark in 2015 to apply for asylum. Now, he is awaiting deportation because authorities did not agree that his life is under threat in Iraq.

“I didn’t know how tough it would be to get asylum in Denmark. But when you are fleeing, you do not think about that, you just want to go to a safe country,” said Adnan, who picked Daniel Christensen as his new name after converting to Christianity.

Failed asylum seekers in departure centres don’t have work permits, receive no social benefits, share small rooms, eat at fixed times in a canteen and are not allowed to cook their own food.

“You can’t just pick and choose in Denmark. That is why we need to put pressure on these people to take responsibility and return home. They are not entitled to be here,” Danish minister of immigration told Berlingske newspaper in June.

TMP – 09/06/2019

Photo credit: Stig Alenas / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Two policemen looking at the papers of some immigrants, who are sitting on the street. Copenhagen, Denmark – April 6, 2017