Racism Is Seen as a Growing Threat in Denmark, Poll Shows

A growing number of Danes say racism has become palpable in their country.

A poll published on Monday by broadcaster TV2 shows that 42% of those asked now see racial discrimination as a widespread problem in Denmark, up from 32% a year ago. The result follows reported acts of aggression against people of color in Danish towns and comes as the government’s controversial immigration policies draw international attention.

The administration of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has dragged her Social Democrats toward the right on immigration policy to win over Danish voters. In the process, she’s defended one of the European Union’s toughest stances on foreigners. At the same time, there have been reports of attacks against people who were ostensibly targeted because they look foreign. On Monday, local media reported that a brown-skinned worker at a Covid test center was punched by an assailant who then fled the scene after shouting racial slurs.

The United Nations and European Union lawmakers have criticized Denmark for many of its immigration and asylum policies. That includes a decision to force Syrian refugees back to the war-torn country based on a Danish assessment that the area around the capital is now safe. Denmark also wants to stop new asylum seekers from ever crossing its borders by setting up a third-country model whereby refugees would be parked outside the EU.

The UN’s refugee agency and Amnesty International are among organizations to have criticized the Danish plan, which became law last week. The UN says it will trigger a “race to the bottom” and endanger the lives and welfare of refugees.

“UNHCR is very disappointed that Denmark is continuing to pursue this vision, despite the serious human rights concerns UNHCR has raised,” it said in written response to Bloomberg News.

In recent years, Denmark has built a reputation as a country that’s especially harsh on foreigners seeking refuge from conflict. In 2016, Denmark’s notorious jewelry law allowed authorities to seize cash and other valuables from asylum seekers. Inger Stojberg, the immigration minister at the time, posted social media snapshots of a cake she fed her staff to mark the 50th restriction on foreigners.

Denmark’s parliament has since voted to move forward with an impeachment trial into Stojberg’s conduct, after it emerged that her ministry unlawfully separated young refugee couples.

The TV2 poll was conducted by Megafon and is based on responses from more than 1,000 people. Of those surveyed, 35% said they disagreed, while 23% said they either didn’t know or had no views on the subject.

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