There’s no doubt that the average Dane on the street, or at least the streets of Copenhagen, doesn’t like to read a story about a foreigner harshly treated by the establishment.
And the government knows this too. It might approve of the Immigration Ministry’s tightening of regulations, but it doesn’t want to come across as heartless. The cynics will note that high-profile cases tend to get a reprieve.
Show the love!
Barely days after ending up with cake on her face, Inger Støjberg struck another bum chord with voters with her contention that Danish citizens should report people to the authorities who they suspect might be potential illegal immigrants.
The minister of integration, immigration and housing cited the workers at your local pizzeria who are not speaking Danish, and social media quickly became awash with Danes showing their support for their local pizza man.
Many shared the hashtag #anmeldenpizzabager, which shot up to number one on Twitter’s trending list for Denmark.
The hard luck stories
It wasn’t long before her critics had a human face to reflect the strictness of her 50 new rules. US citizen Mary Stewart Burgher, 60, who worked in Denmark from 1985 to 2015, was told she was being deported.
According to the authorities, Burgher had no family ties keeping her in Denmark. And without a permanent residence permit, because her work for the UN never required her to get one, deporting her is pretty routine – even though she owns a property.
Burgher, unsurprisingly given that her story got picked up by most newspapers, has won a stay of execution, and now there is a steady stream of similar stories, from Quynh Doan, the highly-educated US wife of a Dane who has two young children (5 and 7 – one is autistic) in Denmark, to a woman from Afghanistan with dementia.
In the case of Doan, she has been caught out by the government’s removal of the 26-year rule, which made it possible for Danes living abroad to return with a foreign spouse, even though they had started a family abroad.
Lars Kyhnau Hansen, a spokesperson for Marriages without Borders, told Jyllands-Posten that he’s received a lot of enquiries from worried Danes abroad with spouses who are not EU citizens, although the government is expected to exempt highly-paid Danes from the requirements.
Not everyone takes deportation lying down. Some 1,960 rejected asylum-seekers have disappeared, according to the Immigration and Integration Ministry – a high figure, but a long way short of the estimated 12,000 in Sweden.
The ministry reckons about 5,000 refugees will seek asylum in Denmark this year, although so far only 650 have applied.
But even if they get asylum, employment can be hopeless for many, according to the aid organisation Kompasset.
One of its employees told an undercover Nigerian TV2 reporter to search for ‘black work’ on the internet as it would be impossible for him to get “legal work”.