Realistic & Fair Immigration: A Policy to Unite Denmark

Mette Frederiksen is a Danish Social Democrat politician. She has been a member of the Folketing, the parliament of Denmark, since 2001, and served in Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s government as Minister of Employment from 2011 to 2014.

By Mette Frederiksen
COPENHAGEN, May 27 2019 – Immigration policy has divided the people of Denmark for many years. There are few other areas where the fronts are drawn so divisively and where arguments become attacks.

Maybe this is understandable? Immigration policy plays an important part when it comes to defining the country we want to be. There are deeply held emotions at stake. And more and more people are experiencing for themselves what happens when integration fails.

Mette Frederiksen

When it comes down to it, the Social Democrats do not believe the people of Denmark are as divided on this issue as one might think. We want to help refugees. That is our duty as a compassionate country.

We also agree that there are limits when it comes to the number of immigrants that can be integrated into our country. And it is crucial to ensure that integration is improved. Why, then, is this so very difficult?

Maybe we Danes have been too quick to judge one another? But not wishing to see your country undergo fundamental change does not make you a bad person. And wanting to help other people to improve their lives does not mean you are naive. The vast majority of us want to do both – we want to help more people, and we want to take care of our country.

This may be a difficult task, because Denmark and the world are facing a genuinely difficult situation. A new situation. Record numbers of refugees are on the move.

We are also seeing increasing numbers of people who are not fleeing war or civil unrest, but who – understandably enough – are seeking to make better lives for themselves in our part of the world. Climate change will force more people to relocate. And add to that the fact that the population of Africa is expected to double by about 2050.

In Denmark, the population has changed rapidly in a short time. In 1980, 1 per cent of the Danish population was of non-Western origin. Now, that figure stands at 8 per cent. This development has come about in just one generation.

Danish society is benefiting greatly from the contributions made by many of the people who have come here over the years. People who have learnt Danish, who have jobs, who share our values and who, quite simply, are now Danish. But unfortunately, too many people have come to Denmark without becoming part of Denmark.

It is not a temporary challenge that we face. This challenge is here to stay. It places pressure on our welfare model, our high levels of equality and our way of life.

We are facing a severe challenge. But we have dealt with severe challenges before.

We have disagreed on matters over the years, even major issues. But Denmark is at its best when we compromise and move forward together. Compulsory education. The state pension. Free access to health services for all.

None of these decisions has been forced through by a narrow majority and a divided population. That is why they still stand today. And we need the same kind of decisions when it comes to immigration.

We have to rise above the daily discussions. Shine a spotlight on what we aim to achieve. Spend more time thinking about what is both realistic and fair, rather than considering what is in the short-term interests of the parties. In short, what we need is an immigration policy to unite Denmark.

So, in 30 years’ time, we will be able to look back on our generation of citizens and decision-makers and say that we resolved the challenge of our age. That when faced with major dilemmas, we struck the right balance between taking responsibility in the world, and taking responsibility for Denmark.

Make no mistake, we cannot help everyone here in Europe and in Denmark. But equally, refugees must be helped. Conditions in the very poorest parts of the world must be improved at a fundamental level so that people do not seek happiness elsewhere. We cannot turn our backs on the world, nor do we wish to.

That is why we need a comprehensive, long-term plan.

This is the message we want to put forward with this proposal. We present what we feel is the ideal solution. Some elements cannot be implemented straight away, but everything begins with resolve and the will to do something. And we have that. Our proposal consists of three elements:

Numbers matter. Denmark must take back control. We want to impose a limit on how many non-Western immigrants are allowed into Denmark each year. So that our residential areas, schools and places of employment can keep up. So that we have a genuine opportunity to integrate the people who come here. So that they learn the language, find jobs and come to adopt our basic values.

And we have a proposal on how we can enforce such a limit in purely practical terms while also operating in compliance with international conventions. We want to change our asylum system and set up a reception centre outside Europe. In the future, it will only be possible for UN refugees to be granted asylum in Denmark.

We have to help more people. At the moment, the weakest people are being left to fend for themselves – the people who are unable to flee, or who cannot afford to. The people who are most in need of help. That is not fair.

We must never accept people drowning in the Mediterranean, or being subjected to violence and abuse as they flee. Our aim must be to ensure that fewer people have to flee, and that more people can create a future for themselves in their own countries instead of seeking a new life in Europe.

This is a problem that Denmark cannot resolve alone, but we can take the lead. By doubling our own support to adjacent areas. And, as part of the EU, by spearheading a historical boost of Africa in particular.

New fight for freedom. Social democracy is, and always has been, a freedom project. It has given more and more people the opportunity to shape their own lives. It has largely succeeded in this by providing education, high levels of employment and free access to health care for all.

We are now facing a new chapter in this fight for freedom: the new Danes. Gender equality has to apply to them as well. Rights and obligations go hand in hand. Religion is always subordinate to democracy. This requires us to deal with the norms that exist in certain parts of Denmark.

First and foremost, it requires more people to become part of the Danish community. Where we all share the same basic values. And where we meet one another in residential areas and schools. A 10-year plan must be applied to ensure that no residential areas, schools or educational institutions have more than 30 per cent non-Western immigrants and descendants in future.

And more have to contribute to Danish society. That is why we want to introduce an obligation for all immigrants on integration benefits and cash benefits to contribute 37 hours a week.

These are the main elements of our proposal. Are there elements in this that the Social Democrats have not endorsed previously? Yes. The world and society have changed. And luckily, politics is not set in stone.

We said to ourselves from the outset that we have to start from scratch, think along new lines and adopt a holistic approach. We believe we have achieved that with what we are now proposing.

We are of the opinion that Denmark needs a cohesive, long-term immigration policy. Where the fundamental direction is fixed and its individual elements are not subject to constant changes.

Our entire proposal is a presentation for discussion. We are very happy to listen to other people’s good ideas. But we will insist on one thing: there is a need for broad and binding cooperation with regard to long-term solutions.

Denmark does not need the bloc politics and divisiveness that have historically characterized immigration policy. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Social Democrats stand by an immigration policy that is both realistic and fair. An immigration policy to unite Denmark.

Within a Parallel Universe – Monsters of the Dark Web

By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, May 27 2019 – Human existence includes dreams, thoughts, ideas, music, stories, religion, and other immaterial ”things”. They constitute an important part of our habitat, i.e. the dwelling place of any living organism, consisting of both organic and inorganic surroundings. I learned this when I many years ago found myself among the undulating heights of Cordillera Central, which rise diagonally across the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

After days of hard work in fields and garden plots, peasants of the Cordillera gathered on the porches of their bright-painted houses, or ramshackle huts, to chat and play dominoes with their neighbours. While they, around kerosene lamps, joined friends and families, stories were told about dreams and another sphere, quite different from our everyday existence. On an occasion like that, Julian Ramos, a patriarch more than a hundred years old, told me:

    People from your part of the world do not understand that a man like me lives in two worlds. I move between them like someone who walks through sunshine and shadows. I work and toil in one world close to another one that consists of dreams, music and tales; things I cannot see and touch. It is the dwelling place of gods, saints, and miracles. Listen to the dog howling out there in the dark. I tell you, that is not just a dog. Oh no, it is a human being who turned himself into a dog. The butterfly you saw in your room last night, that was no butterfly, it was your beloved who dreamt about you and her dream turned her into a butterfly. The fireflies over there are no insects, they are the souls of dead ancestors. All around us are things and creatures we do not know, which we cannot see, cannot understand. Up in the air, in the earth down below us, in the springs, the caves and the trees, live the mysteries, the luas. What we assume to be our world is only a tiny fraction of something else, something much, much bigger. I know this since I am an old man. Life is a tough and hard teacher and the longer we are forced to encounter him, the more we learn.

Remembering Julian Ramos´s words I realize that a man like me and “people from my part of the world”, actually live in two worlds as well. A sphere of dreams and vodú deities was part of Julian Ramos´s and his neighbours´ habitat, a realm that actually is present in the minds of people all around the world and probably has been there ever since Homo Sapiens developed. However, ”westernized” human beings have for the last thirty years, or so, also become used to live with or even within another habitat, the artificially created, but yet real Cyberspace,1 which affects our lives to an even higher degree than Julian Ramos´s ”spiritual realm”.

Cyberspace´s enormous digital world is a dream world, an unregulated and uncontrolled domain. However, contrary to Julian Ramos´s spiritual sphere it has been created by machines. Cyberspace exists and is accessible to individuals from all over the world. A place both beyond and within everyday life. We enter Cyberspace to interact with others; exchange ideas, share information, provide social support, conduct business, gamble for money and play games, make contact with future spouses, create artistic media, discuss politics and direct, create and influence a wide range of actions in real life. Cyberspace is used and misused for money transactions, purchasing goods and product promotion. It benefits technology strategists, security professionals, entrepreneurs, government, military – and industrial leaders, as well as fanatics and criminals.

As the dream world, Cyberspace is a make-believe environment, visited by cybernauts who may appear to be real, but do not exist in reality.2 In 2017, the Scottish writer Andrew O´Hagan wrote a book in which he decribed how he created a fictive character who through the Internet gained a life of his own.3 He called him Ronald Pinn and received a Facebook account in the name of his invented character; complete with a profile, interests, and hundreds of fake friends.4 Soon Ronald Pinn gained real ”friends” as well, contacts enabling him to enter a vast market place.

O´Hagan became obsessed with his own creation – his Frankenstein monster and while being a novelist O´Hagan experienced how the character he had created began to control him. William Faulkner once said:

    It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.5

Tellers of tales, people who like Julian Ramos, are able to enter spiritual spheres where they do not only meet gods and angels but also encounter monsters. O’Hagan created his own Mr. Hyde, a dangerous doppelgänger. He made Ronald Pinn into a young drug addict, political extremist, and gun fetishist. In Pinn´s name, O´Hagan rented an actual apartment and through the web he purchased white heroin, arriving in vacuum packs costing £ 39. He also bought bundles of counterfeit money that was easily accepted in various London stores. For his web purchases the fake Ronald Pinn used cyber-currency, bitcoins, and as long as he paid he was welcome everywhere in Cyberspace, his real identity was never checked. Ronald Pinn could have been a mercenary, a terrorist, a psychopath – no one cared. He bought false identity documents, as well as several weapons, which arrived in parts to the apartment of a non-existent Ronald Pinn.

The so called Dark Web is a criminal´s paradise made real. O´Hagan found that it is a place governed by ”an anti-authoritarian madness. A love of disorder as long as your own possessions aren´t threatened.”6 The monsters and trolls created in the ”spiritual sphere” of traditional storytellers might not be real, though those inhabiting Cyberspace do exist. The fictitious Ronald Pinn contacted Cyberspace monsters who sold him drugs, weapons and means to contact pimps and killers. Cyberspace is a parallel universe with a potential to cause a lot of damage. We have to be careful not to fall in its traps and have to find means to check and shun the lies and deceits thriving there. We also have to try to help our friends and children to avoid being engulfed by the Dark Web.

1 The concept became common knowledge after the Canadian-US writer William Gibson 1982 introduced it in the short story Burning Crome, developing it further in his 1984 novel Neuromancer, where he described it as a “graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data,” Neuromancer (2016). New York: Penguin Classics, p. 52.
2 From October 2018 to March 2019, according to its own reports, Facebook took down more than 3 billion fake accounts. https://transparency.facebook.com/community-standards-enforcement
3 O´Hagan, Andrew (2017) The Secret Life: Three True Stories. London: Faber & Faber.
4 Fake followers and friends (bots, spam accounts, inactive users, and non-real/invented persons) are common in political propaganda and consumer surveys. For example, Twitter Audit did in 2017 find that of 31 million followers of Trump´s Twitter, 15 million were bots and fake accounts. It was also recently established that 63 percent of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro´s more than four million twitter followers were fake.
5 Fant, Joseph L. and Robert Ashley, eds. (2002) Faulkner at West Point. Oxford MS: University Press of Mississippi, p. 101.
6 The Secret Life, p. 122.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.