What’s the best way to integrate foreigners? The answer to that question is different for each and every person who comes here, but it is my firm conviction that the path to successful integration goes through involvement, participation and equality. In reality, ‘inclusion’ might be a better word than ‘integration’.
With that in mind, I’m left scratching my head by Dansk Folkeparti’s (DF) proposal to revoke foreigners’ right to vote in local elections. This is a party that fights against parallel societies, a party that encourages foreigners to adopt Danish values, and a party that sees itself as a bastion against anti-democratic forces.
DF’s proposal is in diametric opposition to the principles the party claims to stand for. The consequences of such a move could be the entrenchment of parallel societies, fewer immigrants adopting Danish values or taking part in the new society and, in the end, a weaker democracy.
A parallel society is something that exists alongside mainstream society and all the values norms that it is made up of. If participatory democracy is the norm in mainstream society, and if DF instead of encouraging foreigners to take part in the democratic process, wants to strip them of their opportunity of doing so, then it is clear that they really want is to promote parallel societies.
DF has always argued – and still does – that one of the most important things a foreigner can do is adopt Danish values. One could ask then, whether democracy – according to DF – is no longer a Danish value, since they want to make it as difficult as possible for foreigners to vote. Their proposal must either mean that DF either no longer sees democracy as a Danish value or that they don’t want foreigners to take part in the democratic process, one of the most basic pillars of Danish society. I don’t know what’s worse. It’s somewhat ironic that DF often accuses foreigners of being anti-democratic, yet the party itself would prevent them from voting. Something just doesn’t add up here.
DF often beats its drum as an opponent of anti-democratic movements, but they are obviously not so interested in protecting democracy that they don’t see anything wrong with making it more difficult to vote, instead of using it actively as something that can encourage involvement, good citizenship and a sense of belonging.
DF’s proposal shows what they really stand for. They are obviously not interested in breaking down parallel societies. They aren’t interested in encouraging foreigners to adopt Danish values. And they aren’t interested in protecting democracy and stamping out anti-democratic forces. If you think about it, their way of thinking is only logical. Imagine what it would be like if all foreigners in Denmark got involved in mainstream society. DF’s entire reason for being would disappear. DF’s proposal only makes it clear that they don’t want foreigners to integrate, for what would be the benefit of them doing so.
Measures like starthjælp benefits, point systems, a rejection of all things ‘foreign’ – from halal meat to headscarves – and the constant rhetoric of condemnation and negativity towards foreigners are just a few of the examples of how DF consciously seeks to undermine inclusion and to keep our ethnic minorities from becoming an active part of a Danish society that they feel at home in.
Back to the question about how we can best integrate foreigners, the answer remains as varied as the foreigners who live here, but for myself and the other members of Radikale, the proposal put forward by DF is not a part of the equation.
Radikale works for a Denmark that places a priority on equality, inclusion and respect, and we aren’t afraid to give foreigners the right to be a part of our society and our democracy. Instead of limiting their right to participate in the democratic process, we should expand it and ensure that more can take part, and that everyone can contribute. This is something the current government, of which Radikale is a member, has already done by shortening the length of time that foreigners need to have residence from four years to three before they can vote in local elections. This is in diametric opposition to DF’s position and, in our view, exactly the approach we require.