Racism plays a role in migrants’ exclusion in Denmark: report

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Racism plays a role in migrants’ exclusion in Denmark: report
Somalis protest against forced deportation of migrants in Copenhagen on 6th May 2017. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Scanpix

Anti-migrant political discourses and exclusionary migration policies are having a disproportionate and harmful impact on migrants, including in Denmark, according to a new report by NGO European Network Against Racism (ENAR).


The report, which covers 26 EU countries, says that migrants across the block are increasingly the targets of racist violence and speech and face discriminatory policies and attitudes hindering their access to the labour market.

Racist attacks against migrants, barriers in the labour market and ethnic profiling and discriminatory policing of migrants are all mentioned by the report as being part of the increasingly difficult situation faced by newcomers to EU countries.

Danish incidents cited as evidence of the trend include nationalist Danish People’s Party MP Martin Henriksen telling an 18-year-old high school student, who was born in Denmark to a Danish mother and Iranian father, during a TV debate that he did not automatically consider him to be Danish.

"You can't jump to the conclusion that you are Danish, just because you are born and raised in Denmark, speak Danish, and study at a Danish school. That is just absurd," Henriksen said during the debate.

By making such a statement, Henriksen excluded Danish citizens with a foreign background from the Danish national identity, concluded the report, stating that “the typical markers of what would traditionally be one’s national identity such as birth place, language, education were not enough and racial and cultural heritage was the defining factor used for exclusion in this instance.”

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A second example taken from Danish cultural and political life is the advertisements placed by immigration minister Inger Støjberg in Lebanese newspapers telling refugees not to come to Denmark.

Significant cuts to social benefits for refugees have also been made since Støjberg’s Venstre (Liberal) party returned to government following the 2015 election.

“Since the election in June 2015, the new Danish government cut benefits to asylum seekers and migrants by up to 50%, with the purpose of making Denmark less attractive for refugees. Foreigners' retirement pension and child benefits have also been changed. This means that access to social benefits is now dependent on the length of residence in Denmark,” says the report.

The report also cites the case of an asylum seeker who was severely assaulted by a three masked men, an arson attack on a bus used by the inhabitants of an asylum centre, and three incidents in which threatening graffiti was sprayed on asylum centres’ walls.

Using results from the last two general elections, the increased percentage of the popular vote gained by the Danish People’s Party was cited by the report as an example of what it calls “Electoral success for political parties using xenophobic/racist ideas and policies”.

Graphic: European Network Against Racism

“The European Union and political leaders must stop the vicious circle of exclusion and hate and focus on long-term solutions to address hate crime and discrimination targeting migrants. At a deeper level, we need to question the racial biases underpinning European and national migration policies in order to ensure the real inclusion and participation of migrants in European society,” ENAR Chair Amel Yacef said in a press statement. 

Georgina Siklossy, senior communications officer with ENAR, told The Local there is a risk of toughening policies against migration and xenophobia feeding off each other, including in Denmark.

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“Restrictive policies and anti-migrant discourses contribute to an overall negative climate of hostility towards migrants, which can then legitimise discrimination, racist abuse or, in some cases, attacks targeting migrants,” Siklossy said via email.

“Policies and discourses portraying migrants as a 'problem' have an impact on public perceptions of migrants and also on people who have lived in Denmark or Europe for two, three or more generations and continue to be regarded as ‘alien elements'," she added. 



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