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GREENLAND

Danish prime minister says sorry to Greenlanders forcibly moved to Denmark

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen apologised in person Wednesday to six Greenlandic Inuits removed from their families and taken to Copenhagen more than 70 years ago as part of an experiment to create a Danish-speaking elite.

Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen on March 9th 2022 says sorry to Greenlanders forcibly moved to Denmark.
Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen on March 9th 2022 says sorry to Greenlanders forcibly moved to Denmark. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

“What you were subjected to was terrible. It was inhumane. It was unfair. And it was heartless”, Mette Frederiksen told the six at an emotional ceremony in the capital.

“We can take responsibility and do the only thing that is fair, in my eyes: to say sorry to you for what happened,” she said.

In the summer of 1951, 22 Inuit children between the ages of five and eight were sent to Denmark, which was Greenland’s colonial power at the time but has since gained autonomy.

The parents had been promised their children would have a better life, learn Danish and return to Greenland one day as the future elite, in a deal between authorities in Copenhagen and Nuuk, the Greenland capital.

In Denmark, the children were not allowed to have any contact with their own families. After two years, 16 of the group were sent home to Greenland, but placed in an orphanage.

The others were adopted by Danish families. Several of the children never saw their real families again.

An inquiry into their fate concluded more than half were very negatively affected by the experiment.

Only six of the 22 are alive today.

“It was a big surprise for me when I realised that there were only six of them left, because they were not that old,” their lawyer Mads Pramming told AFP.

“They told me that the others had died of sorrow,” he added.

The PM’s apology is “a big success for them”, he said, two weeks after they each received financial compensation of 250,000 kroner (33,600 euros).

“First they got an apology in writing, and then the compensation for the violation of their human rights, and now they will have a face-to-face,” with the prime minister, Pramming said.

“Nothing had happened until now and it’s you, Mette, who took the initiative to set up a commission two years ago”, one of the six, Eva Illum, said.

In December 2020, the prime minister offered the six an official apology.

READ ALSO: Denmark to pay compensation to Greenland’s ‘experiment children’

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2022 DANISH ELECTION

Why Faroe Islands and Greenland could decide Danish election result

Denmark’s election on November 1st could conceivably be settled by four parliamentary seats allocated to representatives from Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Why Faroe Islands and Greenland could decide Danish election result

Under Denmark’s constitution, four seats in parliament or “North Atlantic mandates” as they are termed in Danish politics are awarded to parties from the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Both are autonomous territories within of the Kingdom of Denmark and have their own parliaments. Before they became autonomous in the 20th century, they were governed from Copenhagen – hence the constitutional need for their representation in parliament.

Because the parliament has a total of 179 seats, 90 are required for a party (in practice, a faction of allied parties under the ‘bloc’ system) to win a majority and form government.

READ ALSO:

Usually, the four North Atlantic seats are not required to take one side or the other over the threshold of 90 seats needed to win an election.

For example, the 2019 election saw four red bloc parties secure 91 seats and therefore the parliamentary majority needed to back an agreement that installed Mette Frederiksen as Prime Minister.

But if the red and blue blocs both fall slightly short of 90 seats, the North Atlantic seats – and the parties that win them in the Faroes and Greenland – can come into play.

The most recent poll produces this exact situation because it gives the ‘red bloc’ 87 seats with 71 seats to the opposing ‘blue bloc’.

The centrist Moderate party, which has not aligned itself to either side, under former Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen would get 17 seats if the poll was born out in the election itself.

If the Moderates decided to work with the blue bloc, each side would still be short of 90 seats at 87 and 88 for the red and blue sides respectively.

This would mean the North Atlantic parties would need to join an agreement to put a government in place.

The situation is unusual but has occurred before – most recently at the 1998 election, which was famously decided by 176 votes on the Faroe Islands.

Five of the last six elections in Denmark have seen parties aligned with the Danish ‘red’ bloc take three of the four North Atlantic mandates, with the exception being 2015, when all four went to red parties.

Parties from the Faroe Islands and Greenland tend to back the bloc that aligns most closely with their own politics.

“The Faroe Islands and Denmark have separate economies. The burdens I as a member of parliament can place on Danish voters would have no impact on my voters. And the Danish voters cannot replace me. They do not have access to my place at Christiansborg,” Sjúrður Skaale, a current member of the Danish parliament with the Faroese Social Democratic Party, wrote in a column in media Altinget in January this year.

Skaale said he would prefer North Atlantic seats not to be decisive, despite Social Democratic parties from the Faroe Islands potentially being able to tip the balance in favour of a Social Democratic Danish government in a knife edge election.

“Personally, I hope the [current] government can continue. But it would be completely wrong – verging on undemocratic – if it happened on the basis outlined,” he wrote.

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