It probably seemed a good idea back in 1951: take a group of 22 children aged 5-8 from Greenland, put them on a ship to Denmark, force them to learn Danish and turn them into role models for a new bilingual school system.
However, like a number of similar social experiments of this kind in places such as Australia and the United States, the well-intentioned move had negative consequences for the children involved.
The children and social minister, Mai Mercado, has just announced that the government is going to open an official enquiry into what went on.
Road to hell paved with good intentions
“Even though there were good intentions behind the idea, there’s no doubt that what happened has had extremely negative consequences for a number of the children,” said Mercado.
After a year in Denmark, the children were returned to Greenland and most of them ended up in children’s homes where they were only allowed visits from their families on Sundays, reports DR Nyheder.
“This has scarred us for life. Everything was taken away from us: families, language, country, home and siblings – everything,” said Helene Thiesen, one of the 22.
Stopping short of an apology
The children have requested an official apology, but that looks unlikely. Up until now, PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen has refused their request.
“It’s not about apportioning blame, but about all of us learning from our common history so that we can face the future together,” said Mercado.
However, the Red Cross and the child protection organisation Red Barnet have apologised for their part in the project.