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February 2002, Volume 9, Number 2

Scandinavia: Denmark

Denmark. On January 17, 2002, the new Liberal-Conservative Danish government proposed several restrictive measures aimed at reducing the number of refugees and immigrants arriving in the country. The government plans to eliminate "refugee de facto" status, which covered persons seeking protection who did not meet the 1951 Geneva Convention criteria- they will now be rejected and removed. Foreigners granted asylum must wait seven years for permanent residence, compared to the current three years, and they will no longer be allowed to automatically bring their spouse and children to Denmark.

The government plans to increase the number of countries considered "safe," since an asylum seeker's country of origin must be classified as "safe" before Denmark can reject his request and deport him. Those granted asylum can be sent back to their country of origin up to seven years after their arrival in Denmark if the situation in their country returns to normal and they do not risk persecution. Those who visit their homelands can lose protection in Denmark.

Refugee, Immigration and Integration Minister Bertel Haarder said: "We think the proposed measures will allow us to reduce the number (of asylum seekers) in order to concentrate on the integration of those who live in our country… Foreigners today represent a net burden on society. They cost more than they give back. This must be changed." During their first seven years in Denmark, foreigners will not have full entitlement to social welfare benefits.

The UNHCR said it wanted to discuss the new proposals with the Danish government. The UNHCR is concerned with plans to limit family reunification, the definition of who is entitled to protection in Denmark, welfare benefits and returning people to countries declared to be "safe."

Denmark stopped recruiting guest workers in 1973, when one percent of residents were foreigners. Immigrants are 4.9 percent of Denmark's 5.2 million residents, or 7.4 percent when foreigners who have acquired Danish citizenship are included. In 2001, some 6,000 foreigners received asylum, and 11,000 were admitted for family unification.

The Danish government also proposed raising from 18 years to 24 the minimum age at which Danes and immigrants will be able to marry a foreigner and bring the foreign spouse to Denmark under family reunion laws; before the foreign spouse arrives, a bond of 50,000 kroner ($6,000) must be posted to cover any welfare costs. The Danish Immigration Service says that a third of all family reunions in 1997-1999 involved immigrants aged between 18 and 22.

The government's proposals go to the Folketing or parliament and, with the support of the populist Danish People's Party, are expected to become law.

Norway. A second generation 15-year-old African-Norwegian boy was stabbed to death on a sidewalk on January 26, 2001 by two neo-Nazis in Oslo; they were found guilty.

The trial of the accused killers spotlighted anti-immigrant sentiment in Norway, a country of 4.4 million with 200,000 immigrants from the developing world. Some 125,000 developing country immigrants live in Oslo, a city of 500,000, and immigration increases the number of foreigners in Norway by about 16,000 a year. In September 2001, the ruling Labour party was ousted after years in power by a center-right coalition supported by the anti-immigrant Progress party.

A record number of people, 14,700, applied for asylum in Norway after the country joined Schengen in 2001. Norway's Director of Immigration says that the Schengen agreement makes it easier to enter Norway.

Scandinavian countries received busloads of asylum seekers from Eastern European countries after rumors there that Bulgarians were being granted asylum. In January 2002, some 100 Bulgarians arrived in Norway by bus and applied for asylum. The Norwegian Immigration directorate set up fast-acting teams to process their asylum application. All the Bulgarians' applications were rejected, and they were expelled.

Travel agencies in El Salvador advertised that Sweden was granting refuge to Salvadorans; the country suffered two earthquakes in 2001. More than 600 Salvadorans paid thousands of dollars to get to Sweden, and then applied for asylum. Sweden announced that they would be deported, which prompted the Salvadoran government to complain that its citizens had to live in cold barracks while awaiting the decision.

Sweden. Sweden sheltered 7,000 Kosovars, granting them a temporary residency status that ended in 2001. However, some 4,000 Kosovars remained in Sweden and applied for asylum, and the Swedish migration board granted 63 percent of them permanent residency status for humanitarian reasons.

In November 2001, the Swedish migration and asylum minister stepped down after disagreements between Stockholm and Ghana. On January 7, the minister was replaced by economist Jan Karlsson.

Asylum applications in Sweden jumped 43 percent in 2001. Most are from Iraq and the Balkans. Asylum seekers are given housing and an allowance while waiting for their applications to be reviewed, a process that can take months or years. In September, the Swedish government passed an emergency budget increase for the migration ministry. If current trends continue, Sweden may pass Australia and Austria as a leading destination for asylum seekers.

A Kurdish woman in Sweden who campaigned against so-called honor killings was shot dead by her father because she had a relationship with a Swedish man. Known by her first name, Fadime, she became a well-known figure after bringing charges against her father and brother in 1998 for threatening to kill for having a relationship with the Swede rather than marry a Kurd. The father was given a suspended sentence and a fine for the threats, while the then 17-year-old brother, whose threats were considered most serious, was sentenced to probation for one year. Shortly after the trial, the boyfriend of Fadime died in a car accident.

The case prompted Swedish Integration Minister Mona Sahlin to say that the government is considering changing legislation to help protect immigrant women in similar situations.

"UNHCR to probe new Danish policy on immigrants," Reuters, January 22, 2002. "Woman who opposed 'honor killings' is killed by father," Agence France Presse, January 22, 2002. "Increasing number of asylum-seekers to Norway," Norway Post, January 22, 2002. Clare MacCarthy, "Denmark moves to reduce number of foreigners," Financial Times, January 17, 2002. "Denmark's tough pledges on immigrants crumble," Reuters, January 8, 2001. "El Salvador criticizes Sweden over immigrants," Reuters, January 7, 2002. "Sweden asylum chief mulls fortress Europe," UPI, January 7, 2002. "600 Salvadoran refugees to be expelled from Sweden after scam," Agence France Presse, January 6, 2002.