POLITICS: Immigration, Uranium mines & Green Cards

April roundup: Greenland is one step closer to profiting from its underground resources, SF takes a step toward the right on immigration, while the government decides to scrap the Green Card programme

Greenland’s uranium mines one step closer

Denmark’s zero-tolerance policy on uranium mining is being challenged by Greenland’s desire to extract the radioactive material

Despite an official zero-tolerance policy toward nuclear power, last month, the Danish parliament threw its weight behind Greenland’s request to open uranium mines.

Greenland is a self-governing territory in the Kingdom of Denmark. While Denmark retains responsibility for Greenland’s defence, Greenland is responsible for its exploitation of natural resources.

The island has a wealth of underground resources, particularly rare earth metals used in the technology industry. However, mixed with these rare earth metals is uranium, and to make the mining profitable, the uranium would also need to be exported.

Greenland’s parliament, the Naalakkersuisut, voted in 2013 to overturn its ban on uranium mining, and has since passed a number of laws to create a framework for the arrival of international mining companies.

The new laws regulate the processing and export of uranium from Denmark. They required the approval of the Danish parliament, given uranium’s potential to be used to produce weapons of mass destruction. All parties except the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) supported the laws, which will ensure Greenland abides by regulations established by the United Nations and the International Energy Agency.

Proponents of the mines argue they will help Greenland become more financially self-sufficient – Greenland relies upon block grants from Denmark to finance its welfare.

Detractors, however, argue that the mining laws will enable the companies to dodge taxes, while others are concerned that too few Greenlanders will find employment at the mines, which are expected to be staffed primarily by foreign labour, particularly from China.

Demonstrations in Greenland in April are evidence of continuing opposition to the mines, while calls for a referendum on the issue have been rejected by the government.

If the laws pass in the Danish parliament, as they are expected to, they will take effect on July 1.

SF takes stronger position on immigration

The Socialist People’s Party (SF) wants immigrant women to enrol in education programmes or risk losing their benefits

Left-wing parties have long been accused by the right of failing to acknowledge the challenges that accompany immigration. That political divide is fading, however. Left-wing Social Democrat (Social Demokrat) leaders supported the government’s tighter immigration and asylum policies, which included restrictions on family reunification for asylum seekers.

Last month, the Socialist People’s Party (SF) entered the debate when the party presented six proposals to tackle low levels of employment and education among immigrant women.

Among the proposals are mentor programmes and an increase in the number of immigrants employed by the state. They also propose withdrawing unemployment benefits for women without a primary school education or vocational training certificate unless they are enrolled in an educational programme. The policy already exists for those under age 30.

At the party’s annual meeting, leader Pia Olsen Dyhr outlined why tackling integration was vital.

“The combination of the threat from radical Islam, the enormous flow of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, combined with failed integration is a poisonous cocktail. It threatens our free and open society. It threatens our community and solidarity,” Dyhr said.

“Denmark is built on democracy, equality, and free speech. But we have people who travel to fight for the Islamic state, imams who preach radical Islam, and we see women subject to social control in patriarchal families. We cannot accept that, and we must address it to redress the errors of the past.”

The party’s position was condemned by Politiken newspaper columnist Brian Esbensen, who accused the party of succumbing to right-wing fear tactics.

“It’s completely crazy to say that the greatest threats to us today come from the refugee crisis or radical Islam, when we face the degeneration of European democracies, Trump’s potential to become president, the 39 trillion kroner in tax havens, and a climate catastrophe worse than we had ever dreamed of,” Esbensen wrote.

“The truth about the ‘radical Muslims who are threatening our values’ is that there are extreme forces, but they have no power, and support for them is almost non-existent among Muslims.”

Dyhr replied that Esbensen was failing to accept the reality of the integration challenges that Denmark faces.

“In his view, there are no integration challenges in Denmark. No social control of women. No challenges in marginalised housing areas,” she writes. “It has always been the job of the left wing to fight for the rights of marginalised groups. In recent years, we have noticed how immigrant women are taking up the fight and becoming role models for children and young people in marginalised housing areas. I am full of admiration for these women. And they deserve to be backed up with more than words.” M

Green card programme to be scrapped

The Green Card programme, designed to help businesses get the highly-educated foreign labour they need, has been less than a success.

According to the Employment Ministry, since 2013, 70 percent of Green Card holders have taken unskilled jobs.

Green Card holders have complained that the programme attracted them to Denmark even though there were no jobs available in their fields. They then found themselves without access to unemployment services, and without the right to start their own business.

Now the Social Democrats (Social Demokrater), Socialist People’s Party (SF) and Danish People’s Party (DF) want to end the programme.

“We do not need highly educated people from India and Bangladesh, who are not refugees, to take cleaning jobs in Denmark,” Social Democratic immigration spokesperson Dan Jørgensen told Berlingske.

The three parties have a majority in parliament, meaning they can force the Liberal Party (Venstre) government to drop the programme.

“We respect the majority, but it doesn’t change our opinion that Denmark should be as closed as possible for potential asylum seekers, but open to people who want to work and contribute to our society,” Venstre immigration spokesperson Marcus Knuth told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

3,840 people came to Denmark via the Green Card programme in 2014, of which just under half were family members of the Green Card holder. To qualify, the applicant has to satisfy a number of conditions, including education, work experience and financial security.

The Confederation of Danish Industry opposes closing the programme. It is disappointed that the parties aren’t waiting to evaluate the effects of the 2014 reform on the programme, which now requires Green Card holders to prove they have a job paying at least 315,000 kroner a year after two years in Denmark. M


Foreign aid misspent

The Liberal Party (Venstre) government has broken rules set by the OECD on how to spend foreign aid, reports Altinget. In 2015, 220 million kroner was spent on Danish-language education and jobs training.

“The problem is not simply that money was taken from initiatives that are supposed to help the world’s poorest, but that Denmark seems to be cynically taking advantage of an OECD system that is completely broken,” said Adam Moe Fejerskov from the Danish Institute for International Studies.

OECD’s Development Assistance Committee allows foreign aid budgets to pay for costs associated with an immigrant’s first 12 months in the country. But in a letter to Altinget, the OECD confirmed that it was not permitted to count funds that were used to integrate immigrants in the labour market as foreign aid, because those funds benefit the donor country’s economy.

Easing the police burden

The reintroduction of border controls in Denmark in response to the refugee crisis has diverted police resources away from their usual tasks. But now the national guard, hjemmeværnet, will be brought in to relieve pressure on the police.

According to justice minister Søren Pind, the border controls “will take place under the responsibility and leadership of the police, and the personnel will be subject to a targeted education programme under the guidance of the police school.”

While 165 officers will return to their normal duties across the country, the police force remains squeezed following last year’s terror attack in Copenhagen. Patrols and guards near the city’s Jewish institutions have increased over time from 257,979 hours in January 2015 to 450,653 hours in March 2016.

Tax tension

The governing blue block is split on the issue of taxes. The minority Venstre government requires the support of both the populist Danish People’s Party (DF) as well as the libertarian Liberal Alliance party.

The latter has strongly pushed for tax relief, particularly in the top tax bracket, and the Venstre has accommodated this wish in its governing manifesto.

DF announced, however, that due to increased costs brought on by the refugee crisis, it would not be able to support any tax cuts.

“We simply cannot afford it,” DF leader Kristian Thulesen Dahl told DR. “The money is being spent on refugees and migrants. And if there is any money left over, we need to use it to strengthen welfare services in health and eldercare.”

Dahl pointed to new calculations from the government that predict the Danish population will increase by 100,000 people by 2020 as a result of the refugee crisis. According to the Finance Ministry, public spending will need to increase by 6.4 billion kroner between 2017 and 2020 to keep up.

“My prayer is that they completely reassess their refugee policy before it sucks up all our money.”

DIIS saved

The Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) was among the publicly-funded institutions slated to be moved out of Copenhagen under the government’s plan to redistribute public jobs.

The organisation has strongly protested the decision, arguing that their 88 employees will be unable to properly do their jobs in Denmark’s second city, Aarhus. DIIS’s mandate is to assess Denmark’s foreign and political situation and to inform the media, politicians and the public.

The opposition Social Democrats (Social Demokrater) have decided to oppose the planned relocation of DIIS, bringing the government into a minority after they also lost the support of Liberal Alliance.

MP Mogens Jensen explains that while his party supports the government’s redistribution plans, DIIS was a poor choice.

“In DIIS’ case, 98 percent of their partners and users are in the capital,” he told DR. “It’s clear that keeping DIIS in Copenhagen is the most sensible solution.”

Benefits cap creates poverty

The unemployment benefits cap introduced by the government this year will have a major impact on the incidence of poverty in Denmark.

According to calculations by the Economic Council for Labour Movement (AE), around 16,400 Danes will end up in poverty, including approximately 11,000 children.

Head of analysis Jonas Schytz Juul told Politiken newspaper that the cap on the total benefits unemployed people can receive will disproportionately affect single parents. M


By Peter Stanners

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief. Occasional photographer.

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