Who to Send Home

The Danish (female) politician Pia Kjærsgaard gave an interesting interview, published yesterday (The Next Election Campaign Should Also Be About Foreigners), to David Rehling of the commentary newspaper Information. Now, Kjærsgaard is not even in the current Danish government, but the tacit support of the Danish People’s Party (Danish abbreviation “DF”) that she leads keeps the present governing coalition in power and has enabled it to go forward with its electoral program.

That’s only as long as the governing liberal-conservative coalition includes in that program the DF’s pet initiatives, of course, which mainly have to do with making Denmark a more unfriendly place for the non-tourist non-Danish.

Rising popular discontent with those non-Danish, particularly the flood of asylum-seekers Denmark was then attracting, turned into the centerpiece issue of the last nation-wide legislative elections in November, 2001, and catapulted Kjærsgaard into her current “kingmaker” position on the Danish political scene.

It should be no surprise that the interview starts out with Kjærsgaard maintaining that, as the piece’s title states, this issue of what to do with foreigners should also be at the center of the next elections scheduled for 2005 – along with “social welfare, hospital waiting-lists, and legal reform,” the issues she claims the Danish people are mainly concerned about today. What’s remarkable about the ensuing conversation, though, is her specific prescriptions about what to do with every category of foreigner in Denmark. Her analysis may shock some with its central claim that those who aren’t supposed to be in Denmark should just leave – or even be forced to leave. At the same time, it could stiffen the backbones of authorities in other countries (such as the Netherlands) who are also grappling with these problems and finding it necessary to resort to forced expulsions.

“Who should be sent home?” asks Rehling early in the interview, and Kjærsgaard lays out her foreigners-in-Denmark typology:

  • First, those whose requests for asylum have been denied. A no-brainer for Kjærsgaard: of course they should all be sent back where they came from immediately, forcibly if need be. “Everyone should be able to understand this – regardless of party affiliation.”
  • Those without long-term residence permits. “These we must evaluate,” says Kjærsgaard. “See where they came from. Is there the possibility that they can go back?” Actually, she maintains, in their heart-of-hearts most of these know that going back is what they should do – and after all, Danish repatriation provisions are “very favorable” (presumably she means financially). Note that she does go on to make clear, however, that Denmark should not force or even insist that those who cannot return to their old countries do so. (Presumably she means here those who who face persecution or worse in their home countries.) But there are “many thousands” of short-term residents who indeed can return home – and they should.
  • Those with long-term residence permits. Here Kjærsgaard speaks of “an offer they cannot refuse” (et tilbud . . . de ikke kan sige nej til). But this is Denmark, remember, so nothing out of a Mafia-context is implied. Rather “[These] should understand that Danish society will be helpful with their travels.” In any case, there’s no question of forced repatriation here; “We have to bow down before the fact that Denmark is their homeland.” But anyway, if they have a long-term permit and are really integrated into Danish society, then they’re no part of the problem.

There it is, then. Whatever you make of all that, Kjærsgaard does go on in the interview to disavow previous public statements from Mogens Camre, the one Member of the European Parliament for the DF, that those with long-term residence permits should also be forced to return “home,” and that even cases of awarded Danish citizenship should be reviewed for revocation. On the other hand, when it comes to new foreigners coming into the country, Kjærsgaard maintains that only the bare minimum required by the UN conventions Denmark has signed should be allowed – and that number, she says, is in the neighborhood of 500. (Presumably per year? I also have to assume that that does not include here foreigners moving to Denmark because they already have a job waiting for them there, from which they can then immediately reward the state for letting them in by payment of Denmark’s massive taxes.)


Besides immigration policy, the DF also famously makes waves, both domestically and in those foreign circles that bother to pay attention, with its negative attitude towards the European Union. Indeed, it’s fair to file Mogens Camre in that curious category of MEPs who serve in Strasbourg despite representing political organizations which believe that the EU should not exist, or at least that their respective countries should not participate in it. The very title of the relevant webpage on the DF’s Internet site (all in Danish, naturally) makes things clear: “The DF is an opponent of the EU.”

Of course party-leader Kjærsgaard sings with this choir as the Information interview turns to the EU – even to the extent of hitting some hysterical notes. “If we have a referendum on the EU Constitution, and we accept the Constitution, then we should pull out of the EU.” Huh? That’s right, because a “Yes” vote “would be catastrophic with a constitution that will replace our own. For that’s what will happen.” Kjærsgaard advocates for her country a negotiated “special position” (særordining) with regard to the EU instead. Unfortunately, the interview doesn’t go any deeper into what this might mean; but presumably it would entail in the first place Denmark’s ceasing to be a EU member-state in the usual sense. Ultimately, Kjærsgaard doesn’t think there will be any Danish referendum: the British referendum comes ahead of the Danish, and when the British vote “No” that Constitution will be dead anyway.

This itself is contradictory, if you think about it: the British will vote “No” so Denmark won’t have to decide and instead can stay within its present institutional position vis-à-vis the EU, which the DF opposes? You could also call contradictory the chit-chat at the interview’s end, when Kjærsgaard looks forward to her upcoming long-delayed vacation – at the family summer-house on Santorini Island! No, that’s not in Denmark; it’s in fellow EU member-state Greece, and in fact the very ability of the Kjærsgaard family to actually buy a summer-house there is intimately tied up with the existence of the EU! Rehling does in fact try to point this out, but Kjærsgaard lightly brushes the matter aside. And it probably is a rather unimportant subject; far more important is Kjærsgaard’s assertion earlier in the interview that “one day the Danish People’s Party will be in the government. I’m completely convinced of this.” And she’s probably correct.

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