Denmark loosens harsh immigration rules, right wing protests


Custom officers conduct spot controls at the German-Danish border, on July 05, 2011 in Flensburg, Germany. Last year, Denmark reintroduced checks along its borders to Germany and Sweden - which were previously abolished under the Schengen Agreement. Denmark's new government is rolling back those immigration controls.


Sven Geissler

MALMO, Sweden — Denmark’s new left-wing government has made its first moves to loosen the country’s draconian immigration laws, opening it up to attack from the country’s powerful far-right.

The new coalition, which took power last October, has proposed abolishing the points-based immigration system and the Danish language exam that the previous center-right government had brought in, even for immigrants with wives or husbands already residing in Denmark.

The two laws are the most recent of the measures brought in over the past decade as a result of a campaign by the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party, on which the previous government relied for its parliamentary majority.

"Years of frequent rule changes have led to unnecessary requirements that have hindered the integration of foreigners in Danish society," the government said in its proposal to change the law. "The Government considers that a points system under which an immigrant must demonstrate business experience, education or language skills prior to a family reunification creates an unnecessary barrier for residents, who have the right to bring a foreign spouse to this country."

The Danish People’s Party said the government was reneging on its election promises.

"The government is taking the voters for fools," said Martin Henriksen, the party’s immigration spokesman. "Before the general election it said that it would stick to a strict immigration policy, now it is starting to dismantle it. The government will open the floodgates to people who will never be able to positively contribute to Danish society."

Immigration is a big issue in Denmark, with the far-Right Danish People’s Party taking a 12.3 per cent share of the vote in last September's general election.

This is despite the fact that first or second-generation immigrants make up only 9.5 per cent of the Danish population, less than half the proportion of neighbouring Sweden.