Denmark, a Social Welfare Utopia, Takes a Nasty Turn on Refugees

Griff Witte, Washington Post, April 11, 2016

Lise Ramslog was out for a barefoot amble on the warm day last September that Europe’s refugee crisis came to her remote village in southern Denmark.

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Ramslog decided on the spot that she would help: She ended up giving two young couples, a small child and a newborn baby a 120-mile ride in her cramped sedan to their destination in Sweden. {snip}

In another context, Ramslog might be known as a good Samaritan.

But the Danish government has a different term for her: convicted human smuggler.

The decision by authorities to prosecute Ramslog–and to charge hundreds of other Danish citizens with a similar crime–is to many here just the latest evidence of a society that, when faced with an unparalleled influx of migrants and refugees, has taken a nasty turn.

In that respect, Denmark has company: Across Europe, a once-tender embrace of those fleeing conflicts on the continent’s doorstep has evolved into an uncompromising rejection.

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But when it has come to those fleeing 21st-century conflicts on Europe’s doorstep, Denmark has gone into overdrive to broadcast its hostility. While Germany continues to welcome asylum seekers, and other European countries such as Sweden held their doors open for as long as they could, Denmark has taken a hard line almost from the beginning.

The government slashed refugees’ benefits, then advertised the cuts in Lebanese newspapers. It has enabled police to confiscate refugees’ valuables, including cash and jewelry. And authorities have made it far more difficult for those already here to reunite with their families, upping the wait time from one year to three.

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“These people broke the law,” said Peter Kofod Poulsen, a recently elected member of Parliament from the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party. “Human smuggling is not all right–not if it’s done by the train company and not if it’s done by private individuals.”

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The number of refugees taken in by Denmark, he said, should be “as close to zero as possible.” The alternative, in Poulsen’s view, is the end of everything Danes hold dear–including low crime rates and high-quality government services. Welcoming Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans and others fleeing war, he said, is just too burdensome.

“This country is falling apart,” said Poulsen, who is slim, blond and self-assured. “We used to have a safe, monocultural society. Now our welfare state is under huge pressure.”

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