Denmark to pay compensation to Greenland’s ‘experiment children’

Six people from Greenland who were forced to take part in a Danish social experiment as children in the 1950s are to be paid thousands of kroner in compensation by the Danish state.

the greenland flag
A file photo showing the flag of Greenland. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The six people are the surviving members of a group of 22 children who were moved to Denmark and cut off from their families in the 1950s in an attempt to bridge the cultural gap between the Scandinavian country and its then-colony.

In Denmark, the children were deprived of contact with relatives and once they returned to Greenland they were not reunited with their parents but instead put in an orphanage. Many of them would never see their families again.

Denmark officially apologised to all 22 in 2020 and the six surviving members will now be paid 250,000 kroner each by the Danish state after a settlement was reached.

The settlement was confirmed in a statement by Denmark’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Senior Citizens on Friday and has since been reported by media in Greenland.

The official intention of the 1950s experiment was to give the children a Danish upbringing and language so that they could later become part of a “Danish speaking elite” in Greenland.

In the statement, social and elderly issues minister Astrid Kragh said she was “pleased the six people will now be given compensation by the state”.

“The relocation of the children is a dark chapter in the history of Greenland and Denmark, and we must not close our eyes to it,” she said.

“What happened had large negative consequences for the children, who lost their language, their cultural identity and their connection to their families,” she added.

The six people who will receive compensation are now aged around 80.

READ ALSO: Denmark apologises to children taken from Greenland in 1950s

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Greenland temperatures warmest ‘in 1,000 years’

Temperatures in parts of Greenland are warmer than they have been in 1,000 years, the co-author of a study that reconstructed conditions by drilling deep into the ice sheet told AFP on Friday.

Greenland temperatures warmest 'in 1,000 years'

“This confirms the bad news that we know already unfortunately … (It is) clear that we need to get this warming under control in order to stop the melting of the Greenlandic ice sheet”, climate physics associate professor Bo Møllesøe Vinther of the University of Copenhagen told AFP.

By drilling into the ice sheet to retrieve samples of snow and ice from hundreds of years ago, scientists were able to reconstruct temperatures from north and central Greenland from the year 1000 AD to 2011.

Their results, published in the scientific journal Nature, show that the warming registered in the decade from 2001-2011 “exceeds the range of the pre-industrial temperature variability in the past millennium with virtual certainty”.

During that decade, the temperature was “on average 1.5  degrees Celsius warmer than the 20th century”, the study found.

The melting of the Greenland ice sheet is already leading to rising sea levels, threatening millions of people living along coasts that could find themselves underwater in the decades or centuries to come.

Greenland’s ice sheet is currently the main factor in swelling the Earth’s oceans, according to NASA, with the Arctic region heating at a faster rate than the rest of the planet.

In a landmark 2021 report on climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the Greenland ice sheet would contribute up to 18 centimetres to sea level rise by 2100 under the highest emissions scenario.

The massive ice sheet, two kilometres thick, contains enough frozen water to lift global seas by over seven metres (23 feet) in total.

Under the Paris climate deal, countries have agreed to limit warming to well under 2C.

“The global warming signal that we see all over the world has also found its way to these very remote locations on the Greenland ice sheet”, Vinther said. 

“We need to stop this before we get to the point where we get this vicious cycle of a self-sustaining melting of the Greenland ice”, he warned.

“The sooner the better”.