Misuse of integration funds sets off larger debate

After discovering funds were used for visit to amusement park, the lack of oversight comes under fire

Muhammed Aslam, a City Councillor representing the third district, has come under fire for misusing funds intended for activities to integrate ethnic minorities.

Berlingske newspaper reported on Monday that Aslam (Socialdemokraterne), who is also the president of housing project MjølnerparkenÂ’s residents’ association, was using state integration resources to hold birthday parties and take families on trips to the amusement park Bonbon Land.

Karen West, a board member for Socialdemokraterne (S) in the third district, told Berlingske that in no way does taking families on a bus trip to Bonbon Land, especially when the residents divide themselves ethnically on the bus, promote integration.

“I don’t see Muhammad Aslam as a standard-bearer for integration,” West told the paper.

Not only has AslamÂ’s use of the integration funds caused him to fall out of favour with his own party, it has also sparked a debate over the effectiveness of integration projects in general.

According to Berlingske, projects aimed at promoting integration have very little oversight or criteria, and the Social Affairs and Integration Ministry doesnÂ’t even have a complete overview of the projects, as they are spread out under various ministries. Berlingske Research also carried out a study that showed that many local governments cannot account for the effectiveness of their integration projects.

Karen Hækkerup (S), the social affairs and integration minister, conceded that the system needs improving and said she is currently scrutinising integration projects.

“It doesn’t work to just keep going the way it’s going,” she said. “It is untenable when we’re in a situation where the state is lacking money.”

If the experience of her predecessor is to be a judge, Hækkerup will have her work cut out for her.

The former immigration and integration minister, Søren Pind (Venstre), told Berlingske in an interview on Tuesday that while minister, he tried unsuccessfully to get an overview of how many integration projects were underway in Denmark and how much they cost.

“It was impossible to find out,” he said. “I was told that the bulk of the money for integration projects came from Satspuljen [money earmarked for social programs]. But I never understood it.”

Pind called the integration projects “a huge waste of resources” and said he would have completely discontinued them had his party not been voted out of power last September. Fellow opposition party Dansk Folkeparti (DF) agreed with Pind’s criticism.

“Integration projects need to undergo a detailed study and there needs to be a way to measure their effects much better,” Martin Henriksen, DF’s integration spokesperson, told news agency Berlingske Nyhedsbureau. “It should be in place before any new funds are granted.”

As for Aslam, another S third-district board member, Eskild Dahl Pedersen, said he no longer believed he was the right guy to represent Mjølnerparken.

“I have lost faith that Muhammed Aslam is the answer to Mjølnerparken’s challenges,” he told Berlingske.

Aslam has not spoken publicly about the allegations.

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