Since 2010, 26 municipalities in Denmark have spent a combined 42 million kroner to send 59 young criminals or drug abusers on rehab programmes that place the young people on a boat that cruises the Caribbean for up to two years at a time.
Metroxpress newspaper reported the figures on Monday after obtaining access to the records of Denmark's 98 municipalities.
The rehab programme typically puts two or three youths on a boat along with a captain and a teacher. The young people are taught on board as the boat sails from one Caribbean island to another. At the conclusion of a year, the youth are returned to Denmark to take a graduation exam. Some students repeat the process for a second year.
One of the most frequent users of the programme is Frederikssund Municipality, which has spent nearly eight million kroner on 12 individuals.
“We do it so that they can get away from the environment of drug abuse. They are maybe caught up in crime such as the sale of drugs and theft. Some have been gone for two years, but the norm is one year,” Frederikssund's director of family affairs, Flemming Olsen, told Metroxpress.
The municipality's mayor, John Schmidt Andersen, defended spending eight million kroner on the tropical rehab project, which according to Metroxpress comes at the same time that the municipality has been told to cut 37 million kroner from its budget. To hit those savings targets, Frederikssund has cut down on the number of workers in daycare institutions, closed schools and began serving vacuum-sealed food to the elderly.
“I agree that it looks strange. But this isn't a cruise. There are demands made. I don't care what they do as long as they stop abusing [drugs],” Andersen told Metroxpress.
A youth who was sent on one of the Caribbean boat tours, however, told Metroxpress that drug and alcohol abuse flourishes among the participants.
“The Caribbean is probably the world's marijuana capital. It's growing everywhere and even the police smoke it in a lot of places down there so it's just a matter of finding someone on the streets with a joint and then buying some. I was busted once by the school teacher, but she gave me another chance,” a 22-year-old named Christian told Metroxpress.
Christian said that students aboard the rehab cruises are also allowed to drink alcohol on weekend restaurant trips and at official arrangements.
Helle Hald is the vice-chairman for Foreningen Hjælp Voldsofre, an association that helps the victims of violence. She said the Caribbean tours are insulting.
“It is an affront to the person who was wronged that those who have violated their rights get these kinds of opportunities. For me, there is no doubt that when a victim reads about these Caribbean cruises, nine out of ten of them will feel further violated and insulted,” she told Metroxpress.