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October 2002, Volume 9, Number 10

Northern Europe

Denmark. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen reported that the number of asylum seekers fell by 52 percent in 2002 compared to 2001, from 8,300 to 3,998, while asylum applications rose in other Nordic countries- in Norway by 41 percent; in Sweden by 54 percent; and in Finland by 86 percent. The number of applicants granted refugee status in Denmark fell sharply, from 53 to 31 percent.

On July 1, 2002 a new law went into effect in Denmark that reduced public assistance to refugees during their first seven years in Denmark, raised from three to seven the number of years a foreigner must wait before receiving a residency permit, and for that permit requires knowledge of the Danish language and the history and culture of Denmark.

Sweden. In the election of September 15, 2002, the ruling Social Democrats and their center-left allies won 40 percent of the vote, which gives them a majority in the 349-member Riksdag, or Parliament. The Social Democrats have ruled for all but nine of the past 70 years, and have been in power since 1994 with the support of the Left Party, formerly Sweden's Communists, and the Greens.

The four opposition parties-- the Moderates, the Liberals, the Christian Democrats and the Center Party-- were divided on many issues. The Liberal Party saw its support jump to 13 percent after its leader said that immigrants seeking citizenship should pass a Swedish language test. The Liberal Party said the proposal was aimed at speeding integration; it also supports the admission of more foreign workers on limited-term visas.

Some 7.3 percent of Sweden's 8.9 million residents are immigrants from outside the European Union.

Swedish police report that the number of radical Muslims in the country has been growing rapidly. Sweden has 250,000 Muslims, the second largest organized religion after Protestantism, and many dissident groups operate on the fringes of religious communities. Most of the Muslims have Swedish citizenship.

Finland. The World Economic Forum named Finland the world's most competitive economy. Between 1996 and 2000, Finland's economy grew an average 5.1 percent a year, putting it well ahead of Europe's 2.6 percent average in the same period. Finland is a country of five million with an unemployment rate of over nine percent, down from 20 percent in the early 1990s. Per capita GDP is $27,000 in 2002. The country is known for telecoms (Nokia), shipbuilding and forestry..

Finland was a country of emigration until the 1990s, with emigrants going to the US and Sweden. There are about 100,000 foreigners in Finland, with the largest group from Russia- some 30,000 to 35,000 Russian Ingrians, descended from Finns who moved to Ingria in the 17th century when Finalnd was ruled by Sweden, migrated to Finland in the 1990s after Finland decided they were Finnish, but many had trouble getting jobs.

For Finland, the major migration issue in 2002 is when the Estonians are to be given full EU freedom of movement rights. Estonia is expected to join the EU on January 1, 2004. Wages are about six times higher in Finland than in Estonia, and Finish trade unions (SAK) estimate that 400,000 Estonians would migrate to Finland if they could. They want a seven-year wait between Estonia's entry into the EU and freedom of movement.

Norway. Norway's Central Bureau of Statistics reported that about 13,600 Iraqis live in Norway, and that their number rose by 10 percent in 2001. About seven percent of Norway's population of 4.5 million are immigrants. The largest first-generation immigrant groups are Swedes, Danes and Pakistanis.

"Iraqis top immigration lists," Aftenposten, September 19, 2002. Kim Gamel, "Socialists Claim Victory in Sweden," Associated Press, September 16, 2002. Roger Boyes, "Radicals find haven in Scandinavia," The Times, August 31, 2002.