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IMMIGRATION

‘Immigrants must celebrate Christmas to be Danish’: DF

The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti, DF) is demanding that immigrants celebrate Christian festivals such as Christmas and Easter if they want to call themselves ‘Danish’.

'Immigrants must celebrate Christmas to be Danish': DF
Children attend a nativity play in Aalborg Cathedral. Photo: Aalborg Stift
“Going to church,” the party’s immigration spokesman Martin Henriksen added, would at least put new arrivals “on the right track”. 
 
The call came after a week when Denmark’s parliament revisited the vexed question of what it means to be a Dane. 
 
Henriksen said he believed that celebrating Christian festivals would help new arrivals to Denmark understand the majority culture in the country.
 
“To do that, you need to understand Christianity and its meaning for the Danish people,” he argued. “You have to participate in that part of our cultural package to experience the things that bind the majority of our population together through common rituals and traditions.” 
 
This he argued, would include celebrating Christian festivals such as Easter and Christmas, and even visiting Danish churches.   “One could imagine that you could pop into a church at Easter, if only just to see how it is done,” he said. 
 
The Danish People’s Party’s suggestion has been sharply criticised by the other parties, with the Liberal Alliance’s immigration spokesperson Laura Lindahl denouncing the attempt to tie national identity to religion as “un-Danish”.
 
“It is very dangerous to make Danishness a matter of religion,” argued the Social Democrats’ immigration spokesman Dan Jørgensen. “In fact, I think that one of the most Danish things there is is not interfering in what others are thinking and believe in.”

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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