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IMMIGRATION

Danish school under fire for ‘ethnic quota’ classes

A Danish school was criticised on Wednesday for limiting the number of students from ethnic minorities in some of its classes, in a bid to prevent students from a Danish background from leaving it.

Danish school under fire for 'ethnic quota' classes
The school has gone from 25 percent ethnic minority students in 2007 to 80 percent today. Photo: Flemming Krogh/Scanpix
The Langkær upper secondary school outside the city of Aarhus said its first-year students had been divided into seven different classes, out of which three classes had a 50 percent limit on the number of  ethnic minority students.
 
The remaining four classes consisted only of students from an immigrant background.
 
The school’s headmaster, Yago Bundgaard, denied allegations that the practice amounted to discrimination and said that the aim was to encourage integration by preventing a dwindling number of  ethnic Danes from leaving the school.
 
“For real integration to take place in a class there has to be sufficient numbers from both groups for it to happen,” he told public broadcaster DR.
 
The school had seen the number of ethnic minority students rise from 25 percent in 2007 to 80 percent of this year’s first-year students.
 
Describing it as “the least bad solution”, Bundgaard said that the ethnic minority students had been picked based on whether they had “a Danish-sounding name”, but admitted that it was a “fluid” distinction.
 
Turkish-born commentator and former lawmaker Özlem Cekic said she would report the school to Denmark’s Board of Equal Treatment (Ligebehandlingsnævnet).
 
“When a headmaster isolates the brown children from the white in an upper secondary school, he is part of sending a signal that the whites must be protected from the brown,” she wrote on Facebook.
 
Human rights lawyer Nanna Krusaa also told broadcaster TV 2 that “placing students solely based on race or ethnicity is in my clear view illegal”.
 
Danish Education Minister Ellen Trane Nørby said that she had requested a report from the school to ensure that the law was being upheld, but that she was also looking at introducing legislation to make upper secondary schools in Denmark more ethnically mixed.
 
“The fundamental problem is that we in Denmark have… schools with a too high ratio of students with a different ethnic background than Danish,” she wrote on Facebook.

IMMIGRATION

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.

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Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.

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