Why Danish PM is being criticized for 'outdated' immigration rhetoric prior to New Year speech

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Why Danish PM is being criticized for 'outdated' immigration rhetoric prior to New Year speech
Mette Frederiksen at the Prime Minister's Office on December 20th. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said prior to her first New Year’s speech as Denmark’s premier that she will seek to apply a strict approach to immigration in 2020.


The government will therefore work for new, stricter laws in the area, notably with regard to jihadists, Frederiksen said in an interview with Ritzau.

The sentiment has been criticized by the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party, a centre-left ally of Frederiksen’s minority Social Democratic government.

Danish prime ministers typically outline their plans for the coming year and review the past 12 months in a speech televized to the nation on New Year’s Day.

Two years ago, former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen used his New Year’s speech to announce a programme intended to tackle social problems in underprivileged areas termed ‘ghettos’.


Frederiksen may or may not choose to highlight immigration in her first New Year's Day speech as PM. But discussion of immigration has moved beyond the binary view of either easing or tightening rules, and Frederiksen should update her approach, according to the Social Liberals.

“We’re now in the last few days of 2019, so I think we can forgive Mette Frederiksen for still being in the 2010s,” Social Liberal political spokesperson and deputy leader Sofie Carsten Nielsen said.

“These concepts of easing and tightening (immigration) belong to the era of symbolic policies, which we are now leaving,” Carsten Nielsen added.

The reference to ‘symbolic policies’ refers to a common criticism made by parties on Denmark’s left of immigration rules introduced for what they see as symbolic, rather than practical value.

Examples of this include the infamous ‘jewellery law’ of 2016 and the now-shelved plan to house convicted immigrants and asylum seekers on a deserted island.


The Social Liberals have called for a new approach to immigration rules including working visa rules for skilled professionals, but Frederiksen’s party was elected on a platform which promised to continue the strict approach of previous, right-wing governments.

This appears to have resulted in clashes between the two parties in recent negotiations over the budget, Ritzau reports.


In her interview with the news agency, Frederiksen said that a “balance” in Danish immigration policies had been reached in the six months that have elapsed since her election.

Recent months have seen new accommodation found for families of rejected asylum seekers housed at controversial facility Sjælsmark, as well as a law change easing the way for foreign-born children in certain circumstances to remain in Denmark.

Rules on the latter area had seen particular debate in relation to a case involving teenager Atcharapan "Mint" Yaungyai, who in October 2018 left Denmark, where she lived with her Thai mother and Danish stepfather and stepbrother. She has now been allowed to return.

But the Social Liberals said that the government should be looking to further reform rules on family reunification in 2020 – and not by making them stricter.

“If you are Danish and fall in love with a foreigner, you should be able to live in your own country. We will never give that up,” Carsten Nielsen said.

READ ALSO: EU ruling overturns 138 Danish family reunification rejections

Editors note: this article previously erroneously stated that the PM's New Year speech was given on New Year's Eve. It is, of course, customarily broadcast on January 1st.


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