Report finds immigrants suffer discrimination

A report condemning Denmark’s treatment of immigrants and foreigners has been criticised by a think-tank for being biased

Immigrants in Denmark suffer racism and discrimination according to a report released this week by the Council of Europe’s anti-discrimination organisation, the ECRI.

The report found that while Denmark created the Board of Equal Treatment in 2008 to handle complaints of discrimination and has introduced measures to integrate immigrants into the labour market, Danish immigration policies are still unnecessarily strict.

The report argued that the criteria for obtaining Danish citizenship, family reunification and permanent residence are very difficult for non-ethnic Danes to meet.

A press release accompanying the report also stated that “the negative political discourse on immigrants, including Muslims, has had a disproportionately adverse effect on these groups in a number of important areas of policy."

The ECRI made three key recommendations to the Danish government. These included reviewing the family reunification laws to remove discriminatory elements, increasing efforts to recruit ethnic minorities into the police, and increasing the funding for non-governmental organisations working to increase co-operation between marginalised groups and the authorities.

Not everyone was convinced about the impartiality of the report, however, as the European Council anonymised many of the sources reporting racism and discrimination in Denmark.

The anonymous reports include concerns about the difficulty of raising complaints against individuals and politicians for making disparaging remarks about immigrant groups, particularly Muslims.

“Civil society actors have informed ECRI that they have in many instances made complaints against these politicians to no avail,” the report states without revealing who these civil society actors are.

According to the law professor Eva Smith, Denmark’s ECRI representative, claims made in the report are supported by testimony from at least two independent sources.

But with the report stating that “some media have continued to portray minority groups, in particular Muslims and Roma in a negative light,” Jacob Machangama from libertarian think-tank Cepos, argued that the reports findings are biased.

“It’s a deeply biased view that Danish media promotes racial discrimination,” Machangama told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There is no justification for it. If you spoke to the chairman of [the journalists' union] Dansk Journalistforbund, you would probably get a different point of view.”

Machangama pointed out that two outspoken anti-immigration organisations were interviewed for the report, SOS mod Racisme and the human rights organisation Dokumentations- og rådgivningscenteret om racediskrimination (DRC), and could be the two sources needed to support the claims in the ECRI report.

The head of the DRC, Niels-Erik Hansen, confirmed to Jyllands-Posten that he was one of the sources. He said that he told the ECRI that despite a slight easing in immigration law, the policies were still very heavy-handed and that it was still difficult to pursue cases of discrimination.

“We are continuously pointing out Denmark’s problems abiding by international conventions. So we can’t exactly paint a rosy picture of Denmark to the ECRI,” Hansen said. “I understand that Jacob would liked to have been consulted but it makes sense to ask those who specialise in discrimination.”

The report is not fully up to date, however, and only covers developments up until December 2011. The new government that came into power in September promised to ease immigration law and earlier in May several major reforms came into force, including the abolition of the point system for family reunification and the immigration test (invandringsprøven), as well as a reduction in the economic safety net from 100,000 kroner to 50,000 kroner.