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Monday, 24 June, 2002, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Denmark cracks down on migrant marriage
Oresund Bridge which links the Denmark to Sweden
Restrictions are forcing couples across the border to Sweden

Tough new restrictions on marrying foreigners are forcing Danes to go into exile in Sweden.

Denmark's right-wing government, elected on an anti-immigrant ticket, introduced the new rules ostensibly to cut down on the large number of arranged and forced marriages amongst its predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities.

But indigenous Danes who fall in love with foreigners from outside the European Union are being caught out by the new law.

One such man is hospital worker Anders Koefod Hansen, from Copenhagen, who two months ago, married Latay from Cameroon.

Latay is facing expulsion from Denmark because the government suspects the couple of having a marriage of convenience.

Latay and Anders Koefod Hansen
Latay and Anders: Some people find love abroad

Under the new rules civil servants can ban a non-Danish spouse from living in the country if they consider that person's ties to Denmark are not strong enough.

"I love Anders and Anders loves me," says Latay, as she and her new husband hold hands and watch the changing of the guard ceremony at Denmark's Royal Amaliaborg castle.

"I am ashamed of the government here. It is a shame that my husband is a Dane and yet he is having to leave Denmark."

Couples exiled

The pair have enlisted the support of Torben Bilken, who runs Marriages Across Borders, an organisation which is helping couples to move from Copenhagen to Malmo, 30 kilometres away, in Sweden, a country which has been most critical of its neighbour's anti-immigrant stance.


I just don't understand it, it is so unfair - you can't restrict love to borders.

Anders Koefod Hansen

"I am ashamed to be a Dane," says Mr Bilken.

"A lot of people now have to agree with Shakespeare, that there is something rotten in the state of Denmark."

Over refreshments in Malmo's main square Bilken explained to the couple that under a Nordic convention Anders could live in Sweden with his bride for two years and then apply for Swedish citizenship.

They could then move back to Denmark.

In the meantime, Anders could continue to commute to work at a hospital in Copenhagen across the new Oresund bridge which links the two countries.

"I just don't understand it, it is so unfair," says Anders."

"You can't restrict love to borders. A lot of people are finding love abroad. I am sure this is a mistake and that the people in our Foreign Ministry are tired from working too hard."

Government defiant

Despite what some people are calling the absurdity of Danes being forced into exile, political observers in Copenhagen see no sign of the government watering down its new policies.


Eventually the government will be undermined, but it will take a year or so, because at the moment the policies are so popular

Toger Siedenfaden, Politiken newspaper

Another tenet of the new law is a ban on immigrants under the age of 24 from marrying.

According to Bertil Haader, the Integration Minister, this is designed to prevent the practice of forced and arranged marriages amongst mainly youngsters from mainly Muslim backgrounds.

But Toger Siedenfaden, editor of the influential Politiken newspaper believes changes will be forced upon the government as Danes realise that they are being trapped by the new law.

"Eventually the government will be undermined, but it will take a year or so, because at the moment the policies are so popular."


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