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SERVICES 
Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 18:09 GMT
Denmark gets tough on immigrants
Mr Rasmussen will lead the government of Liberals and Conservatives
Anders Fogh Rasmussen (c) presents his new cabinet
By Line Vaaben Juhl and Thomas Vennekilde in Copenhagen

"The extreme views on immigration held by Pia Kjaersgaard and the Danish People's Party will never have any influence on a conservative government."


This is much tougher than we expected. It is something like apartheid

Danish immigration organisation

These were the words of a Danish politician, Bendt Bendtsen, now Denmark's minister of economics, when he became leader of the Danish Conservative Party in 1999.

However, it is difficult to see how he is to live up to this promise if the government is to be long-lived.

When Mr Bendtsen and the new Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, presented the new government's programme on Monday, it contained not only new welfare spending and tax reductions, and tougher punishments for violence and rape, but also a much stricter policy on immigration.

Tough on immigrants

Ms Kjaersgaard, has threatened to pull the carpet from under the Liberal-Conservative coalition if she does not get to influence the country's immigration policy.

Pia Kjaersgaard
Winner: Pia Kjaersgaard doubled far-right support

And it looks as though she is getting her way.

The new government is proposing to remove the legal right of refugees and immigrants to bring their families to Denmark.

Immigrants are not to be granted a residence permit until they have lived in Denmark for at least seven years, compared to the existing law's three years.

Furthermore, immigrants convicted of crimes are to be sent back to their home country immediately.


This proposes something which is much worse than we have seen in Austria - much worse than Haider

Danish immigration organisation

The new government also promises a number of welfare improvements, a reduction of waiting time for operations and longer maternity leave.

These policies are to be financed primarily by a huge cut in development aid and increased privatisation.

Concerns

The ultra-nationalist Danish Society praises the new government's proposals, but immigration organisations are worried.

Little Mermaid, Copenhagen
Government plans to send back convicted immigrants

"It provokes uncertainty and fear of the future in Denmark," said the leader of the immigration organisation Poem, Muharrem Aydas.

"This is much tougher than we expected. It is something like apartheid," he added.

Muhammed Gelle, the leader of another immigration organisation, Indsam, said: "This proposes something which is much worse than we have seen in Austria. Much worse than Haider."

No surprises

The list of people who will carry out the new policies, revealed on Tuesday morning, does not contain many surprises.

Another senior Conservative, apart from Mr Bendtsen, is the party's former leader, Per Stig Moller, the new foreign minister.

He is an intellectual, who has written several books on the history of ideas and literature - including one on George Orwell.

At the same time as cutting down on the number of ministers in the new government, Anders Fogh Rasmussen has invented a new title: minister of immigration and integration.

The man in the controversial post is Bertel Haarder, a member of the European Parliament.

He is an experienced politician, having also served as minister of education under a Conservative government in the 1980s.

Five of the 18 new ministers are women, among them the Minister of Justice, the Conservative Lene Espersen, and Minister of Social Affairs, the Conservative Henriette Kjaer.

See also:

21 Nov 01 | Europe
Rasmussen v Rasmussen
31 Oct 01 | Europe
Danish PM calls snap election
22 Aug 01 | Europe
Danes criticise immigrant list
09 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Denmark
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