Small potatoes

Learning lessons from the past about immigration

In the good old days, this week was dedicated to the farming community’s harvest of the potatoes. The children in the rural schools were given the week off so they could help their parents and the farmers to harvest the potatoes – the vital foodstuff that people needed to endure the long and cold winters we once had.

Potatoes were stored in dark cellars to be kept free of frost and from developing roots prematurely for the next spring. That was timely care. We could still learn a lesson from that.

Spuds are sprouting
When the PM opened parliament last Tuesday and cross-party debate followed on Thursday, it was remarkable that welfare was not an issue.

For once, domestic matters were dominated by optimistic notes. Unemployment is decreasing, as are interest rates (to an all-time low), and the trade and currency deficits are problems of the past. Overspending on the state budget has taken place, but it is within the EU limits. Competitiveness is increasing and Danish industry is crying out for skilled labour to fill the present and coming need.

The hot potato
What are the real problems? The big potatoes, so to speak. Fugitives from Syria and elsewhere. Never in our history have so many people been forced to take to the road to escape so many conflicts.

The Red Cross has mobilised some 20,000 volunteers to collect 30 million kroner – which is small potatoes when millions of people are in peril like this.

In the political circus, it seems like almost all the parties are playing the immigration card. Prevent the ‘fugitives’ from coming, integrating and contributing to society!

Chipping in
However, over time we have seen a number of people-on-the-run come here and become respected members of society, even if they have ended up returning home once the storms have blown over.

The Hungarians in 1956 fully integrated since they could not return till 1989. The Jews from Poland, the Vietnamese boat refugees, the Tamil Sri Lankans, the Chinese from Indonesia and Hong Kong. All these people, and with them guest workers from Turkey in the 1970s, fully integrated and, to a large extent, assimilated. The Chileans likewise enjoyed their stay but, regrettably – for us, returned home following the fall of Pinochet.

We have not done a good job with a lot of people -from Pakistan and the Middle East, for example – but there is a second generation of promise coming through, of whom many are our doctors, lawyers and teachers.

We’re in the chips!
The Danish politician should not fear the input of fugitives, but consider them to be a free harvest of talent that could in the future be a most productive and positive element among the population.

Our current demographic trends are leading us towards an elderly and unbalanced workforce. These conflicts, as sad and unfortunate as they are, are an opportunity to revitalise. Should the politicians do so, nobody could accuse them of being small potatoes.

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