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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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GREENLAND

Why Denmark and Canada are about to share a border

A half-century-long peaceful dispute over an uninhabited island has ended after an agreement was reached between Denmark, Greenland and Canada.

Why Denmark and Canada are about to share a border

The 50-year spat over Hans Island has been resolved after the countries agreed to a partition of the island and the Labrador Sea, which separates Greenland and Canada.

The deal means that the Danish kingdom – of which Greenland is an autonomous territory – will be extended by an area the size of Jutland, Funen and Zealand combined.

Hans Island is a barren island around 1.3 square kilometres in size. Located between Greenland and Canada, it is symbolically significant for both countries.

Talks have been ongoing since a special focus group was appointed in 2018 in an effort to find a solution to the longstanding territorial dispute.

The agreement means a border will run from the north to the south of the island along a ridge, with one half being part of the Danish kingdom and the other Canadian territory.

Should Greenland ever become fully independent from Denmark, the Hans Island area would become part of Greenland, which is itself the world’s largest island.

In addition to partitioning Hans Island, the agreement also fixes a maritime border stretching a distance of 3,882 kilometres from the Lincoln Sea to the Labrador Sea. This border will be the world’s longest sea border and the most northerly part of the Schengen area.

One half of the area separated by the new sea border will also become part of Denmark’s territory.

The agreement was scheduled to be signed by the three countries at a ceremony on Tuesday. It must also be approved by the Danish parliament. This is expected to be a formality.

The dispute over the island has been ongoing since the 1970s but has always been peaceful.

In the 2000s, Denmark asserted its claims to the island on several occasions by raising the Danish flag and leaving a bottle of schnapps. Canada responded by leaving its own flag and a bottle of whisky.

The dispute has not affected the Inuit population of the area, who use the island for navigation purposes. It is known by the Thule people as Tartapaluk, meaning “kidney shaped”, while the name Hans comes from a Greenlandic hunter and expedition leader.

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