European Union

Rotten Denmark

Immigration trends

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To deport or not to deport? That is one question—among others—now being considered by Danish politicians in the wake of last year's right-wing landslide. Last November Pia Kjaersgaard, a grandmotherly, Nordic version of Pat Buchanan, led the Danish People's Party through an election that doubled its seats in parliament. In the wake of September 11, the party not only emerged from the fringe to take third place, but also set the terms of debate for the election.

During the brief campaign, Kjaersgaard soared in popularity while condemning immigrants, blaming them for a recent uptick in inner-city gang violence. She was particularly hostile to Muslims. In August the party compiled the much-reviled "immigrants list," publishing the names and locations of 5,000 recently naturalized immigrants in a national newspaper.

The three major parties—the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals, and the center-right Liberal Party—fell in line, arguing only over how much to cut back immigration. The Liberal Party, which won the elections, backed an end to refugees, further restrictions on entry, a more difficult path to naturalization, and exclusion of noncitizens from welfare benefits.

When Jorge Haider's anti-immigrant Freedom Party joined Austria's ruling coalition a few years back, the European Union imposed sanctions. To avoid such a fate, Kjaersgaard was not offered a cabinet seat. But the DPP, allied with the ruling Liberal Party, has begun to wield significant influence in the new government, which has proposed legislation to trim the number of refugees accepted and to cut back on benefits offered to newcomers.

Bertel Haarder, the new immigration minister, has sought to allay E.U. fears. He told the BBC, "We have the highest asylum acceptance rate in the world probably. What we would like is simply to come down to Swedish or even to British levels."