A war is going on between the urban and rural areas of Denmark, not a war of guns and ammunition, but that of ideology and belief – set against the backdrop of the Europe’s greatest refugee crisis since World War II.
With the recent change of government, Denmark is no longer under the leadership of the Sociale Demokraterne’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt – the first woman to take on the role of Prime Minister – but instead is led by a right-leaning minority government. The minority Venstre government – a centre-right party – is fronted by none other than the former Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, and has wasted no time in taking a much harder line on asylum seekers and refugees.
In an unprecedented move, the Danish government recently ran full page adverts in several Middle Eastern newspapers, warning potential refugees, displaced by the current ongoing events in Syria, of` new, much harsher rules had been put in place to stem the flow of refugees seeking asylum in the country. Although the adverts do not technically state that refugees should not attempt to come to Denmark, the motives behind the prose are clear.
A similar tactic has been used my Inger Stojberg – the Danish Integration Minister – in which messages written in 10 different languages, urging refugees and migrants of the tough new immigration measures have been placed in each and every refugee centre across Denmark – in a bare-faced attempt to curb Denmark’s refugee population. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHRC, a total of 17,785 refugees and 4,297 asylum seekers currently reside in Denmark – just a 314th of the total population of Denmark. Although official figures may not be fully comprehensive, it gives cause for concern that such a hard line is being taken, so early into the Syrian refugee crisis.
Both measures have been highly controversial, ridiculed in the left-leaning press and have triggered huge public outcry in Denmark’s largest cities – the capital city of Copenhagen chief among them – in which unofficial welcome events have been planned for migrants via Facebook. As you might expect, these events are ongoing, but have managed to draw thousands of people to attend. Inger Stojberg – the Danish Integration Minister defended the move, stating, “We simply cannot keep up with the current influx,” and offering the idea that the adverts serve as a channel of information dissemination or public service announcement if you will.
Looking to history, Denmark is currently reinacting social policy measures from the 1970’s – after a period of a relaxed ‘Open Door policy’ in the decades previous – in which the government effectively locked down borders to incoming asylum seekers.
Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the new Danish PM, recently visited 10 Downing Street in the first bilateral talk since the snap election in Denmark. The Syrian crisis, amongst other topics, was discussed and it was believed that both Prime Ministers agreed that further cooperation between their respective teams to follow similar goals in clamping down on refugee numbers entering the EU should be carried forward.
Recently, in the Danish Parliament, the Syrian crisis was discussed, as well as the otherwise widely-accepted migrant quota proposed by Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Francois Hollande, to which the majority of MPs were in favour of sticking to the Danish policy and to not partner with other EU states. Whether this may add to tensions in Brussels remains to be seen.
Further rifts between the government and the people opened last week after a television fundraising drive between DR and TV2 raised an estimated 86m kroner – equivalent to £8.6m – to help support Syrian refugees.
Lars Løkke Rasmussen recently travelled to London to meet with David Cameron, in the first bilateral talks since the snap election in Denmark earlier this year. The refugee crisis was the key item on the agenda, but ISIL and the EU stance on Russia were also amongst those discussed.
It is noteworthy to identify similarities in the Conservative UK government and the new Danish government on the Syrian refugee crisis; both Cameron and Rasmussen would prefer to tackle the crisis ‘upstream’. This could mean greater efforts to cut off smuggling networks – known as snakehead gangs – within Syria and neighbouring countries as well as increased communication between the respective governments to stem the flow of refugees seeking shelter in EU countries such as France, the UK and Denmark.
What remains to be seen will be whether Cameron can afford to follow Stojberg and the Danish government’s widely criticised nationwide response to the ongoing Syrian crisis. Or, alternatively, will Cameron – in an effort to regain some of his lost EU bargaining chips – side with Merkel and relax border controls for incoming refugees?
To find out more about Danish immigration policy, please read the following: