Critics slam Danish anti-refugee ad plans

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Critics slam Danish anti-refugee ad plans
Refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo: Søren Bidstrup/Scanpix

The Venstre government's plans to run an information campaign in foreign newspapers about refugee conditions in Denmark has been met with harsh criticism, both from the opposition and from within party ranks.


Integration Minister Inger Støjberg has come under considerable criticism from following her announcement last week that the Venstre government plans to run anti-refugee ads in foreign newspapers.

The minister said on Thursday that she is prepared to run advertisements in foreign newspapers that will contain information aimed at deterring refugees from coming to Denmark.

See also: Denmark to run anti-refugee advertisements

The announcement was made shortly after Jyllands-Posten revealed the contents of a document that human smugglers use to help asylum seekers compare the different levels of benefits in Europe.

The proposal faces opposition both from across the political divide as well as from a number of Venstre politicians, however, with believing it will do little to deter refugees while also damaging Denmark’s reputation abroad.

See also: Smugglers help refugees compare welfare benefits

Social Liberal MP Zenia Stampe argued that the campaign is in fact far more likely to deter other Europeans from moving to Denmark.

“Of course Inger Støjbergs deterrence-campaign will work, just not on asylum seekers," she said.

"Cosmopolitan and humanistic Europeans will begin to think: ‘What happened to the Danes? Weren’t they once known for their open-mindedness, tolerance, equality and sense of solidarity with the world’s poor and persecuted? Now they are suddenly acting spoiled, petty and egotistical. Maybe one should consider investing, working or studying elsewhere’,” Stampe wrote on her Facebook page on Saturday.

“I think Støjberg’s campaign must be the worst branding strategy of the century,” she added.

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Selvfølgelig vil Inger Støjbergs skræmmekampagne virke. Bare ikke på asylansøgere. Til gengæld vil internationalt og...

Posted by Zenia Stampe on Saturday, July 25, 2015

Jyllands-Posten claims to have been in contact with several Venstre politicians who are critical of the campaign, though only few have opted to voice their dissatisfaction publicly.

See also: Denmark can't find housing for refugees

Among those who did, Member of the European Parliament Jens Rohde delivered some of the harshest criticism.

“The issue is whether you are looking to solve the problems, or if you want to gain from them politically,” Rohde told Jyllands-Posten.

“I wish our minister – before she sets a lot of things into motion and starts beating her chest on TV to show how tough she is – would visit these countries and actually see what the reality is like in places like Syria, Libya, Greece and the refugee camps,” he added.

See also: Denmark declines to take part in migrant relocation

Venstre MP Louise Schack Elholm maintained that the Venstre government was simply delivering on what it had promised those who voted for the party.

"Jens is welcome to have his own opinions on the matter, but it doesn't change the fact that we have promised our voters that we will introduce measures to stem the flow of asylum seekers, and that is exactly what we are doing with this," she Elholm told Ritzau.

Støjberg also announced over the weekend that more asylum restrictions may come in the future.

The Danish People’s Party has for instance proposed to send refugees seeking asylum in Denmark back to refugee camps closer to their country of origin and process their cases there, similar to the current Australian model – an idea that Støjberg said that she would consider.

“I will not be putting forth proposals right after the summer, but we will of certainly have to closely examine how the Australian process works and thereafter consider what position to take on the proposal,” Støjberg told Berlingske.

Earlier this month, the Danish People’s Party said it wanted the government to launch a video campaign clearly telling refugees to stay away, also inspired by the Australian government.

The proposal came under heavy fire, however, leading Venstre spokesman Jakob Ellemann-Jensen to dismiss the idea as 'un-Danish'.

Denmark saw its asylum numbers nearly double in 2014, with 14,815 people arriving in the course of the year compared to 7,557 asylum seekers in 2013. A report from the Danish Immigration Service last month showed that 2015 is on pace to be yet another record year

Per capita, Denmark took in the sixth highest number of asylum applications in 2014. But due to its opt-out on EU Justice and Home Affairs, it is not participating in the EU plan to redistribute refugees even though this could see Denmark taking in fewer refugees than is currently the case.


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