Every sixth asylum seeker has run-ins with the law
One out of every six of the country's asylum seekers came under police scrutiny in 2012. According to a parliamentary report given by the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), 1,767 of the country’s 10,500 asylum seekers were investigated for criminal activity last year.
The heads of several asylum centres blamed poverty for forcing residents into crime. One mentioned a mother living in the Hanstholm centre who was arrested for stealing clothing for her children.
Centres are also reporting problems with more organised crime, especially among residents from Africa or former Eastern Bloc countries. One centre in northern Jutland said that some residents from former Soviet countries “systematically steal everything they can, knowing that the consequences are few and easily managed".
In one case, asylum seekers from Georgia living in a centre in Thy in the northwest part of Jutland tried to send 18 kilos worth of stolen goods back to their former homeland. In another case, a group from the Balkans is charged with 70 burglaries and two home robberies. Drug crimes are also reported to be rampant in some centres.
Long waits cause crime
Dansk Flygtningehjælp, the national refugee council, said that although it considers crime unacceptable, many seekers come here from countries where the social structure has broken down and crime is common. They also said that long waits in asylum centres can drive some applicants to break the law.
"The more degrading your situation, the more likely you are to break the law,” council head Eva Singer told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Venstre spokesperson Karsten Lauritzen wants to see criminality among the asylum seekers reduced.
“If they can send a bag of loot home, I am not sure how they are being persecuted,” he said.
Last year's numbers were similar to those in 2011. Only ten percent of asylum seekers charged in 2011 actually received a sentence or fine for committing a crime. The Justice Ministry did not release figures on how many of the 2012 charges resulted in sentencing.
Bødskov said that the government has already launched a series of initiatives to combat the problem, including increased policing and deportation of offenders.