This Week’s Editorial: Back to normal

Denmark has prolonged its immigration control at the German border for another couple of weeks until April 3. And it’s worth noting that extending the controls by more than two months (originally from January 4) should only be permitted if there are serious security problems or other problems concerning public order. And it is harder and harder to claim that.

The stampede is over
It is an open question if it can be prolonged by yet another period – the absolute limit is six months! The latest weekly figures from the Integration Ministry are remarkable. In total, just 145 people sought asylum in Denmark from March 1-7, of which 28 were from Syria.

Compared with the estimated 20,000 migrants and refugees that Danish police estimated crossed over in September 2015, one could conclude that the stampede is over, not that the border control is very tight – just that it is over.

Our friends in Sweden are still maintaining passport controls at their borders – not that there is a lot of business there at the bridge to Malmö and at Copenhagen Airport where the customs officers tend to be in the majority.

Lucky to have Syrians
In Sweden it seems that integration is being handled by the government with concern. This is particularly true in big urban areas where radical-right activists are sabotaging refugee centres and Sverigesdemokraterne – the national right party – is gaining support.

But elsewhere it is different. We heard from an observer in Blekinge in southeast Sweden that they consider themselves lucky since most of their refugees are Syrians who are actively integrating themselves.

Not being without means, they are setting up businesses and making themselves available as skilled labour to both industry and the services sector. As one industrialist recently stated: “All our machine manuals are in English and our Syrians read them just as well as our Swedish staff.”

Vital three-party talks
We are yet to see that in Denmark – but it will surely come. The general observation amongst Danish industry is that they are going to start employing one or two, whether it includes apprenticeships or inviting whole groups to visit their plants.

Danish workers are very reluctant to accept such practices, but even if final structures to ease integration have still not emerged via the three-party negotiations (government, industry and unions), we expect that the decrease in the inflow of refugees has now calmed Danes down and helped them to handle a practical problem in a practical way.

The ambition is to have a three-party agreement by the end of March. The most difficult part is expected to be deciding on a special pay structure regarding apprentice wages. Around 40-70 percent of the normal labour agreement regarding a minimum wage has been suggested, but the unions and industry are sceptical. They fear unfair competition. However that will probably be solved when the right proportions are recognised to make it doable.

In the meantime the Danes have started to handle reality on a day-to-day practice. As if 145 asylum-seekers a week could really alarm anyone!