The Danish Exception

Martin Lund, American Renaissance, December 1, 2017

Its immigration and speech policies outshine those of Western Europe.

Compared to the rest of Western Europe—certainly compared to other Scandinavian countries—Denmark has a refreshingly restrictive immigration policy. It also has a greater respect for freedom of speech, which makes it possible to talk about the dangers of immigration. Denmark does not, by any means, have as strict an immigration policy as such countries as Hungary or Poland, but it is still unusually firm in its determination to retain a national and cultural identity.

What explains this? What is the history of its immigration policy?

On the night of the election of November 20, 2001, it became clear that the Danish electorate had swung considerably to the right. The two traditional conservative parties—the Liberal (in Denmark, “Liberal” means leaning to the right) and Conservative parties—together received 40.3 percent of the vote, and the firmly restrictionist Danish People’s Party won 12.0 percent. This was a combined total of 52.3 percent, compared to the previous, 1998 combined total of 40.1 percent.

The Liberals and The Conservative Party formed a government with the Danish People’s Party in support. The People’s Party was widely decried by liberals as “extreme right,” so its official role in a coalition was a breakthrough in European politics.

One of the key forces that helped bring about this result was the newspaper Ekstra Bladet (“Extra Post” in English), which was then Denmark’s largest. Since 1982 it had been edited by Sven Ove Gade, and around 1995 he dramatically changed the paper’s position on immigration. He had become convinced that mass immigration was a threat to the Danish way of life.

Between 1995 and 2000, Ekstra Bladet ran scores of articles as part of two famous campaigns: “The Foreigners,” which described lives of immigrants, and “The Price of Goodness,” which explained the consequences of “compassionate” immigration. These articles relentlessly attacked a liberalized, 1983 immigration law that had been voted almost unanimously, and made it much easier to claim asylum and bring in family members. The immediate beneficiaries were from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, and Somalia—all predominantly Muslim.

The word had spread quickly in the Third World that Denmark and flung open its doors. In 1983, there were fewer than 60,000 non-Westerners in Denmark; 18 years later, at the time of the 2001 general election, the number had grown 333 percent to 260,000. There are only five million Danes, so the non-white population had grown from just 1.2 to 4.9 percent.

I am sure that the Ekstra Bladet campaigns played a crucial role in calling attention to these changes. The paper even pushed other media, such as the major television stations, towards a more critical view of immigration. However, editor Sven Ove Gade, who had defied pro-immigration elites with great stamina and courage, left his job in 2000, probably under pressure from the paper’s board of directors. Ekstra Bladet has never since conducted a campaign as tough as “The Price of Goodness.”

The results of the 2001 election were dramatic. An “Immigration Ministry” set up in 2003 cut the number of asylum seekers in half, from more than 12,000 to just over 6,000. It cut the percentage of applicants actually granted asylum from 53 percent to 28 percent.

Previously, there had been a great deal of “family unification,” whereby foreigners living in Denmark went home to marry and bring back spouses. In the 1970s, foreign spouses as young as 15 could be brought to Denmark, though the age was later raised to 18. The new government raised the age—for both spouses—to 24, and required that the applicants prove that they “belong” in Denmark. What does that mean? Danish authorities might conclude that a Pakistani who has lived many years in Denmark “belongs” there 100 percent. However, if he brings back a wife who has never been to Denmark, she does not “belong” there at all. The marriage would be denied. However, if she has come to Denmark on vacation, for example, she may be said to “belong” in Denmark just enough to make the couple “belong” more in Denmark than in Pakistan.

In 2005, Denmark had a new general election that gave exactly the same combined total of seats for the three immigration-control parties. But 2005 saw something else of that gained worldwide attention: the Mohammed cartoons published in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

The series was the brainchild of editor Flemming Rose, who had learned that the power of Muslims to prevent depictions of Mohammed was so strong that a Danish writer of children’s books had had real trouble finding an illustrator who would depict the prophet. Mr. Rose feared that Muslim sensitivities threatened free speech. He invited professional cartoonists to draw the prophet “as they saw him,” and the paper published 12 versions.

The Islamic community in Denmark immediately demanded withdrawal of several of the cartoons and an apology to all Muslims (see timeline of the “Mohammed Crisis”). The paper refused. Muslim ambassadors in Denmark demanded a meeting with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, but he refused, saying that freedom of speech in Denmark must not be questioned. In February 2006, a few brave European newspapers published the cartoons, though not one paper in Britain did so. There were riots throughout the Muslim world, and several Danish embassies were firedbombed. Muslims called for boycotts of Danish goods.

Within Denmark, there were repeated death threats against the cartoonists. Kurt Westergaard, who had drawn an especially “offensive” cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, was so viciously harassed that the government sent guards to protect him, and even built a secure room in his house. Muslims did not forget the cartoons. In 2010, five years after publication, a Somali living in Denmark tried to kill Mr. Westergaard with an axe. He survived only because he managed to escape into his secure room.

Readers will recall that in 2015, Muslim terrorists attacked the staff of the satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring 11. The reason was Charlie Hebdo’s repeated publication of Mohammed cartoons.

At the next general election in 2007, the parties on the Right lost seats but kept a majority. Immigration from the Third World had slowed but was not stopped. Then, from late summer 2008, Denmark was hit by the financial crisis and saw its GNP drop by more than five percent in one year. For several years, Danes paid more attention to the economy than to immigration, and this contributed to the victory of the left-leaning Social Democrats in the general election of 2011. For the first time since its founding in 1995, the “far right” Danish People’s Party lost seats in parliament, dropping from 25 to 22.

There was an instructive footnote to the campaign. One of the parties to the left of the Social Democrats started talking about rolling back the tighter immigration laws passed in 2002. Election polling revealed that the moment they did this, the conservative parties began to take back some of the ground they had lost because of the campaign’s focus on the economy. The Social Democrats’ victory was narrow and its leaders had to promise that they would not loosen immigration controls.

However, they began to break their word almost immediately. Indeed, four years after the election, the leader of one of the Social Democrats’ far-left allies, the Social Liberal Party, boasted he had helped pass 45 laws to loosen immigration policy. As a result, in 2014, almost 15,000 people crossed the Danish border and uttered the magic word “asylum,” which required that the Danish authorities process their requests. This appalling number was more than double the 6,000 figure to which the conservative coalition had reduced it. It was little consolation to note that in the same year, 81,000 people sought asylum in Sweden. Sweden had only 9.5 million inhabitants to Denmark’s 5.5 million, so Sweden was accepting more than five times as many asylum seekers per capita as Denmark.

Immigration-control parties regained power by a narrow margin in 2015. The margin of victory would have been greater had the leader of the Liberal Party and current prime minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, not been accused of spending money that was not his own. The election was a triumph for the Danish People’s Party, however, which picked up an impressive 15 new seats for a total of 37, which made it the second largest party after the Social Democrats.

This led to a symbolic but very important victory. Pia Kjaersgaard had been the leader of the “far-right” Danish People’s Party from its inception in 1995 until 2012, when she handed over to the present leader, Kristian Thulesen Dahl. After the People’s Party’s impressive 2015 results, she was appointed chairman of the Danish parliament. The position holds no real power but has great prestige. No one outside of the established political parties has ever held this post, and to my knowledge, it is the first time that a former “far-right” leader has filled the most honorable post in a European parliament.

Prime Minister Rasmussen promised an “immediate curbing” of immigration, but less than three months after the election, Angela Merkel opened up Europe’s borders. Tens of thousands of migrants came to Denmark, and before year’s end more than 21,000 had applied for asylum. A staggeringly high 163,000 applied in Sweden.

Danish TV showed asylum seekers walking on Danish highways and stopping traffic—but being helped by the police. They were also helped by what could be called “politically correct Denmark,” much of which is composed not of Danes but of first- and second-generation Muslim immigrants.

Why wasn’t the newly elected government able to stop the migrants? Since 2007, borders between EU member states have been almost abolished. The flood of migrants made Denmark and even Sweden reestablish “border control,” but that meant only that police officers are stationed at the frontier. They will still let in anyone who claims asylum, and then his case has to be heard.

The root of the problem lies in the interpretation of the UN refugee convention of 1951. Until 1983, Denmark interpreted it to mean that Denmark had discretion in who could even apply for asylum. Since then, anyone can apply.

Because the Danish government doesn’t have the stomach to reinterpret the refugee convention, it tries other ways to keep out migrants. The minister for foreigners and integration, Inger Støjberg, became known worldwide when she introduced the so called “Jewelry Act” in 2016. It gives the Danish authorities the right to confiscate large sums of money, expensive jewelry etc., if they are found in the luggage of asylum seekers. As a result, the British paper The Guardian, ran a cartoon her boss Prime Minister Lars Rasmussen as a Nazi in full uniform. To my knowledge the law has been applied only once, in June 2016, when 80,000 Danish Kroner (12,500 US Dollars) were taken from five Iranian men, but it sends a useful message to anyone who is thinking of coming.

The current Danish government has passed more than 50 of these minor tightenings. Miss Støjberg celebrated number 50 on Facebook, with a photo of her holding a big cake with “50” and the Danish flag on it. In September this year, Miss Støjberg revealed, also on Facebook, that she keeps the Mohammed cartoon by Kurt Westergaard—the one with the bomb—as the wallpaper on her iPad.

This would probably cause a scandal in any other European country and shows the extent to which Danes accept heterodox views. Unfortunately, Denmark has not been able to stop all immigration. As I noted, in 2001, 260,000 first- or second-generation Third Worlders were living in Denmark. Today the number is close to 500,000, including 20,000 from the third generation. They now make up nine percent of the population, and the figure is rising.

An increasing number of Danes are now calling for a political party that would be even more firm on immigration than the Danish People’s Party. In January 2015, a survey in Jyllands-Posten found that almost 13 percent would consider voting for such a party. In June 2016, 24 percent agreed or partially agreed that “there is room for a political party in Parliament with a tougher stance on immigration than what the current political parties stand for.”

In the next general election, to be held at the latest by June 18, 2019, there will be a new party on the ballot: the New Right Party. It is now polling at only 1.4 percent, and the minimum for seats in Parliament is 2 percent. These low numbers may be due to the New Right Party’s libertarian economics; Danes like the welfare state.

Today, the real defenders of Europe are the so called Visegrad countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. They refuse any but a handful of Third World refugees. Unaccountably, the Danish government has so far made no attempt to cooperate with these countries.

As for frank talk about race per se, there is very little of it in Denmark. The only person speaking openly is Helmuth Nyborg, who spoke at the last AmRen conference. Prof. Nyborg has been persecuted because of his views, but he has been able to publish op-eds in Danish newspapers, not least in Jyllands-Posten. In one of these articles, Prof. Nyborg quoted the former minister of justice, Soeren Pind, as saying he was afraid that the “controversial Professor Helmuth Nyborg” was right. The minister added that it was important to get the “the brightest” immigrants.

Helmuth Nyborg

Such candor is rare. Henrik Dahl from the conservative Liberal Alliance wrote this in response to a June report that even third-generation immigrants are doing very poorly in school: “I categorically refuse to believe that immigrants from non-Western countries are less intelligent than other people. I refuse.”

Denmark still has a long way to go. The Danes have been steeped in egalitarian thinking since the 1960s. They believe every problem can be solved through social engineering. Recently, it has become acceptable to say that immigrants from the Third World bring very stubborn cultural patterns, but asking about the underlying causes of these patterns can still get you in trouble.

Danes have more control over immigration than most other European countries, but have not been able to stop it. They must do so soon if their children are to live in a country that is still Denmark.

Topics: , , , ,

Share This

Martin Lund

Martin Lund is a Scandinavian has have been following immigration policies in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway since the turn of the century.

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.