Denmark says ‘non-Western’ immigrants cost state 31 billion kroner

The cost to the state of immigration from countries defines as ‘non-Western’ was 31 billion kroner in 2018, according to an annual report from the Danish Ministry of Finance.

People walking in central Copenhagen. The Danish government has released figures on net immigration costs for various demographic groups-.
People walking in central Copenhagen. The Danish government has released figures on net immigration costs for various demographic groups-. Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Calculated as a net cost or nettobidrag, the figure is based on state spending on public services related to immigration and welfare benefits received by immigrants.

This means that, along with spending on benefits, the costs of public services to which everyone in Denmark has access are included in the calculation.

As such, the costs per person of things like health care, child care, education and culture are factored into the calculation of what the state spends on specified groups and individuals.

Tax contributions from persons who fall into the category ‘non-Western immigrant or descendant’ are deducted from the total.

In a press release on Friday, the finance ministry said that the figure was 2 billion kroner less than in 2017, and down from 42 billion kroner in 2015. The full report can be found here.

Authorities and statistical agencies in Denmark categorise people considered not of Danish heritage into two groups: ‘immigrants’ and ‘descendants’ of immigrants (‘efterkommere’).

A person is considered to be Danish if she or he has at least one parent who is a Danish citizen and was born in Denmark. People defined as ‘immigrants’ and ‘descendants’ do not fulfil those criteria. The difference between the two is that an ‘immigrant’ was born outside of Denmark, while a ‘descendant’ was born in Denmark. 

Meanwhile, all EU countries along with Andorra, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Vatican are considered ‘Western’.

Everywhere else – all of Latin America, Africa and Asia – is ‘non-Western’.

However, authorities have now also begun to divide the ‘non-Western’ classification into so-called ‘MENAPT’ countries and ‘other’ non-Western countries.

MENAPT refers to countries in the Middle East and North Africa plus Pakistan and Turkey.

The former of these two groups cost the state 24 billion of the overall 31 billion kroner spent on non-Western immigration in 2018, according to the ministry statement.

People from the MENAPT countries constituted around 55 percent of all non-Western immigrants and descendants in 2018.

The notable difference in the net contribution between the two groups must be seen in context of their primary reasons for moving to Denmark, the ministry writes.

That is because a larger proportion of people from MENAPT countries arrive in Denmark as refugees or for family reunification, while those from other countries are more likely to move to Denmark because of a job offer or study place.

Presented as a per-person cost, immigrants and descendants from MENAPT countries cost the Danish state 85,000 kroner per person in 2018, according to the ministry. For those from other non-Western countries, the figure is 4,000 kroner per person.

Immigrants from Western countries give a net contribution to state finances through their tax payments, the ministry also writes. The same applies for Danish nationals.

Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye cited the falling overall spending on non-Western migrants as vindication of the government’s strict stance on immigration.

“The report confirms the problems we know about. There is still a large integration lag,” Tesfaye said in the statement.

“But I am happy it shows net spending on immigrants and descendants continues to fall,” he added.

“It’s good news. Strict immigration policy works,” Tesfaye also said.

Lower welfare benefits for refugees compared to others on social support (integrationsydelsen) were introduced by the then-Liberal led government in 2015. They were expected to save the state one billion kroner by 2020, it was reported a year later.

READ ALSO: Denmark has record-low number of unemployment benefits claimants

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How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.