On November 30, Denmark’s center-right government and right-wing Danish People’s Party unveiled new anti-immigration legislation. Part of a finance bill expected to be passed by parliament in 2019, “unwanted” migrants – individuals whose asylum claims have been denied but who cannot be returned to their home countries for fear of persecution or those who are set to be deported due to criminal activity or for national security reasons – will be moved from the Danish mainland to remote Lindholm Island. Located two miles off the Danish coast and spanning seventeen-acres, the island was once a research center that housed a laboratory, stables, and a crematorium for contagious and dead animals. One of the ferries servicing the island is dispiritedly called “The Virus.”
Denmark’s new policy challenges prevailing notions of Nordic countries as bastions for progressive values. Indeed, Denmark itself has frequently held the number one spot for the happiest country in the world. In recent years, however, the country has experienced a resurgence of what can only be described as fascism. Based on a populist, racist, Islamophobic, and anti-immigration agenda, parties such as the Danish People’s Party, the New Right, the Progress Party, and Venstre, are all hellbent on making Denmark one of the most miserable European countries for refugees to resettle in.
Danish politician Martin Henriksen told The Associated Press that the new move “is a signal to the world that Denmark is not attractive” for migrants. Referring to individuals whose asylum claims have been rejected, Danish Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg wrote on her Facebook page that “[t]hey are undesirable in Denmark, and they must feel it!” Støjberg’s page is littered with other anti-immigration and Islamophobic posts.
Unfortunately, this is not the government’s first attempt at dissuading migrants and refugees from coming into the country. In August, Denmark cut social benefits to refugees and immigrants by 45 percent. In 2016, the government passed a bill allowing authorities to seize asylum seekers’ assets to “help” pay for their expenses. In one city, pork became mandatory on menus in the public domain, such as schools, markets, and daycares. The motion is seen as an attack on Muslim refugees, who are prohibited, under the tenets of Islam, from eating pork.
The government plans to decontaminate Lindholm Island next year, in order to house Denmark’s “unwanted” refugees. In 2021, it will be ready to take up to 125 migrants. Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen has said the island is not equivalent to a prison, though detainees will be required to sleep on the island and report to officials daily. If they fail to follow these rules, imprisonment is a possibility.
In suspending its participation in the UN refugee quota system, the country has said it is focusing instead on those who have already arrived. 2017 saw the lowest number of registered asylum seekers in Denmark since 2008, with application figures coming in just below 3,500. Sadly, it seems like the far right’s plans to insulate Denmark from the “other” and transform it into an unwelcoming place for refugees are succeeding.