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Danish NGOs criticise 'catastrophic' aid cuts

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Danish NGOs criticise 'catastrophic' aid cuts
Over 30 aid organisations have criticised redirecting foreign aid funds to the internal housing of refugees. Photo: Bulent Kilic/Scanpix
09:14 CET+01:00
The government wants to redirect one fifth of Denmark's foreign aid budget to housing and feeding refugees, but dozens of aid organisations have joined together to speak out against the 'politician-made catastrophe'.
A proposal to cut 2.5 billion kroner ($420 million) from Denmark’s foreign aid budget is facing heavy criticism from more than 30 Danish NGOs. 
 
The government has said that the increasing number of asylum seekers coming to Denmark will result in an extra 4.5 billion kroner cost to the state and have proposed financing a large part of those costs through a cut in developmental aid sent abroad. 
 
That solution was heavily criticised by the government’s left-wing allies in the Socialist People’s Party and the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) and now an unprecedented number of Danish NGOs have banded together to speak out against using foreign aid to house refugees within Denmark. 
 
“The world doesn’t need another catastrophe and certainly not one created by politicians. But that is unfortunately what parliament is going to do with the government’s proposal to take 2.5 billion kroner from the world’s poorest people,” a joint advertisement signed by 33 Danish aid organisations that ran in the nation’s newspapers on Thursday reads. 
 
The advertisement is signed by major NGOs like Save the Children Denmark (Red Barnet), CARE Denmark, SOS Children’s Villages (SOS Børnebyerne) and ActionAid Denmark (Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke) and calls on readers to pressure the government to drop its proposal.
 
“Danish foreign aid is important in the fight against poverty and in ensuring education, democracy and human rights. If we fail to provide long-term help, it will have serious consequences,” the ad continues. 
 
Denmark’s foreign aid budget for 2014 is roughly 16 billion kroner ($2.7 billion), meaning the government’s proposal would take over one fifth of that money and redirect it to dealing with Denmark’s asylum influx. 
 
Development Minister Mogens Jensen has said that the move is both necessary and by the book. 
 
“It is standard practice that the costs of housing and feeding refugees in Denmark for the first year be charged against foreign aid funds,” Jensen said in a statement, adding that Sweden also spends one fifth of its foreign aid budget on refugees. 
 
The NGOs hope that their united campaign can get the government to reconsider.
 
"Show the politicians that you won't stand for taking money from the world's poorest and create yet another catastrophe," their message reads.
 
And it just might work. Mette Gjerskov, the deputy chairman of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told Politiken that “no final decision has been made and politicians also read newspapers”. 
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