SECOND REPORT ON DENMARK
One of the pillars of ECRI's work programme is its country-by-country approach, whereby it analyses the situation as regards racism and intolerance in each of the member States of the Council of Europe and makes suggestions and proposals as to how to tackle the problems identified.
At the end of 1998, ECRI finished the first round of its country-by-country reports for all member States. ECRI's first report on Denmark is dated 28 November 1997 (published in January 1999). The second stage of the country-by-country work, initiated in January 1999, involves the preparation of a second report on each member State. The aim of these second reports is to follow-up the proposals made in the first reports, to update the information contained therein, and to provide a more in-depth analysis of certain issues of particular interest in the country in question.
An important stage in ECRI's country-by-country work is a process of confidential dialogue with the national authorities of the country in question before the final adoption of the report. A new procedure in the second round of country reports is the organisation of a contact visit for the ECRI rapporteurs prior to the drafting of the second report.
The contact visit to Denmark took place on 26-28 April 2000. During this visit, the rapporteurs met with representatives of various ministries and public administrations responsible for issues relating to ECRI's mandate. ECRI warmly thanks the Danish national authorities for their wholehearted co-operation in the organisation of the contact visit, and in particular would like to thank all the persons who met its delegation each of whom provided much valuable information on their own field of competence. ECRI would also like to thank the Danish national liaison officer whose efficiency and collaboration were much appreciated by ECRI's rapporteurs.
Furthermore, ECRI would like to thank all the representatives of non-governmental organisations with whom its rapporteurs met during the contact visit for the very useful contribution they made to the exercise.
The following report was drawn up by ECRI under its own responsibility. It covers the situation as of 16 June 2000 and any development subsequent to this date is not covered in the following analysis nor taken into account in the conclusions and proposals made by ECRI.
Executive summaryOver recent years, Denmark has taken steps which are relevant to combating racism and discrimination, including measures to provide new arrivals with language, educational and professional skills, steps to combat discrimination and increase ethnic diversity in the labour market and the setting up of a specialised body in the field. Problems of xenophobia and discrimination persist, however, and concern particularly non-EU citizens - notably immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees - but also Danish nationals of foreign background. People perceived to be Muslims, and especially Somalis, appear to be particularly vulnerable to these phenomena. Most of the existing legal provisions aimed at combating racism and discrimination do not appear to provide effective protection against these phenomena. Of deep concern is the prevailing climate of opinion concerning individuals of foreign background and the impact and use of xenophobic propaganda in politics. Discrimination, particularly in the labour market, but also in other areas, such as the housing market and in access to public places, are also of particular concern.In the following report, ECRI recommends to the Danish authorities that further action be taken to combat racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance in a number of areas. These recommendations cover, inter alia, the need to ensure that the legal framework aimed at combating these phenomena is adequate and effective; the need to ensure that policies within the area of integration favour full participation on an equal footing; the need to take measures to address problems of discrimination in various spheres, especially employment, housing and access to public services; the urgent need to fight against the influence of racism and xenophobia in the political sphere and to improve the general climate of opinion towards individuals of a foreign background.
3. In its first report ECRI noted that Denmark had incorporated the
European Convention on Human Rights into Danish law and recommended that
Denmark consider the possibility of incorporating other human rights
conventions into national law as well, particularly the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In July of 1999, the
Ministry of Justice established a Commission to consider this matter. ECRI
hopes that this Commission will look favourably upon the incorporation of
further human rights conventions into Danish law, and in this way
encourage the awareness and implementation of such conventions within
- Citizenship law
C. Criminal law provisions
7. Article 266b of the Danish Criminal Code prohibits dissemination of racist statements and racist propaganda. Since 1995 the Public Prosecutor has received 34 complaints of a possible violation of this Article and brought 14 of these cases before the courts, the majority resulting in punishment, usually a fine. ECRI considers that compared to the frequent reports of racist and xenophobic statements in the media and other forum these numbers are very low and indicate a problem with the implementation of this law. ECRI is concerned that individuals and organisations are not bringing charges due to a belief that it is pointless as the complaints will not succeed. As ECRI signalled in its first report, this article is rather narrowly interpreted based on respect for freedom of expression as enshrined in the Constitution, and the Director of Public Prosecution is rather reluctant to bring charges in such cases. While ECRI recognises the value of freedom of expression and the importance placed upon this value in Danish society, it stresses that the duty to protect members of minority groups against racism and discrimination exists alongside freedom of expression. ECRI therefore reiterates its suggestion to the Danish authorities that they consider initiating a more proactive policy in this area.
8. Racist and xenophobic organisations are not prohibited in Denmark. ECRI stresses the importance of fighting against such organisations and in this regard recalls its policy recommendation No 1 in which it called on member States to "take measures, including where necessary legal measures, to combat racist organisations... including banning such organisations where it is considered that this would contribute to the struggle against racism". ECRI encourages the Danish authorities to consider whether the introduction of further measures might assist in combating racist organisations in their country.
9. In its general policy recommendation No 1, ECRI also recommends that member States ensure that racist and xenophobic acts are stringently punished through methods such as defining common offences but with a racist or xenophobic nature as specific offences or enabling the racist or xenophobic motives of the offender to be specifically taken into account. ECRI notes that section 80(1) of the Criminal Code instructs courts to take into account the gravity of the offence and the offender's motive when meting out penalty, and therefore to attach importance to the racist motive of crimes in determining sentence. While ECRI appreciates this judicial latitude, it favours a more systematic and consistent approach toward combating racist and xenophobic crime, and therefore encourages the Danish authorities to consider the introduction of a provision in this sense.
D. Civil and administrative law provisions
12. The main difficulties in application, as in most other countries, are related to the proof of the intention to commit a discriminatory act. The employee, who shoulders the entire burden of proof, is in a weak position to gather sufficient information to prove to the court that he or she is a victim of discrimination. This task is made additionally difficult under the Act as a result of Article 4, which forbids the employer from keeping records about the ethnic background of employees, thus making it impossible to utilise such information as evidence of discrimination. ECRI encourages the Danish authorities to reconsider the possibility of a shared burden of proof in this area.
13. The Act has also been criticised for not providing a definition of indirect discrimination. ECRI is pleased to learn that educational measures for the police, prosecuting authorities and actors in the labour market are currently being planned and encourages the authorities to ensure that information about the Act as well as about indirect and structural discrimination reaches the relevant actors at the local level. Furthermore ECRI notes that the Danish Government is considering how to amend this Act in light of the recently adopted EU Council directive concerning the implementation of the principle of equal treatment of persons irrespective of race or ethnic origin. ECRI hopes that this process will result in solutions which effectively address the above-mentioned obstacles.
E. Specialised bodies and other institutions
15. As mentioned in ECRI's first report, the Board for Ethnic Equality, established in 1997 has been granted a specific mandate for combating racism and related discrimination. This body is empowered to: advise the authorities and private associations about anything relating to the combating of racism; issue opinions - on its own initiative or upon request- about differential treatment on the basis of ethnicity in both the public and private sphere and recommend changes in practice or solutions to specific problems. ECRI feels that the Board performs a very important function in the area of combating racial discrimination and hopes that the Danish authorities will continue to pay due respect to its advice and recommendations in the area of its expertise.
16. ECRI notes that the Board for Ethnic Equality does not have the power to address individual complaints, and ECRI is therefore very interested in discussions currently taking place with respect to establishing an Ombudsman against discrimination, which would fill this gap. ECRI encourages the Danish authorities to draw inspiration from its policy recommendation No 2 on the establishment of specialised bodies at national level for combating racism and intolerance, in order to create such a body or to create a special competence in this regard within the existing Board for Ethnic Equality or Parliamentary Ombudsman. As mentioned above , ECRI considers that the establishment of such an institution should also be examined within the context of the possible adoption of anti-discrimination legislation, in view of the central role it could play in supervising the implementation of such legislation.
F. Education and awareness raising
17. In its general policy recommendation No 1 on combating racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance, ECRI recommends member states "to ensure that school-curricula, for example in the field of history teaching, are set up in such a way to enhance the appreciation of cultural diversity." For instance, ECRI considers that it would be extremely beneficial to develop within the teaching of history in Denmark, a section devoted to the input brought by the immigrant population to Danish society. ECRI is aware that the Danish school system is highly decentralised, placing a primary value upon the freedom of organisation at the local level and that the national authorities do not wish to exert strict control over the local curricula and textbooks. ECRI hopes that the Danish authorities, local and national, will nonetheless find a way to incorporate such material into the education system at all levels.
G. Reception and status of non-citizens
- Act on Integration
19. Refugees, after being granted a temporary residence permit, are dispersed throughout the country by the Danish Immigration Service. The decision is based upon a system of quotas agreed and arranged with counties and municipalities as well as the personal situation of refugees and the specific conditions of the municipality. Such distribution is, according to the Danish authorities, aimed at creating a more even geographical distribution of aliens in Denmark. As such, certain municipalities, such as Copenhagen, have a zero quota and will, therefore, only accept new Danes under special circumstances. Once assigned to a given municipality, an individual must remain there for the duration of the introduction programme, unless another municipality agrees to accept that individual and continue his or her introduction programme. If an individual moves without such cooperation from the accepting municipality, the individual's introduction allowance may be reduced or terminated.
20. ECRI welcomes the efforts of the Danish authorities to create a comprehensive integration plan for new arrivals and offer them tools they will need for success in Danish society. ECRI is also pleased to learn about the possibility of establishing local integration councils, and hopes these Councils will provide immigrants and refugees with an opportunity for effective representation in expressing their experience of integration efforts. ECRI is concerned, however, that the manner in which new arrivals are to be dispersed throughout the country may involve restrictions on the right to freedom of movement. In particular, the system of quotas, the lack of an adequate possibility to appeal the allocation decision to another body and the need for approval to change municipalities without risking a reduction or termination in social assistance, might, in individual cases, involve an element of compulsion. ECRI notes that the personal situation of the individual, (including particular wishes, linguistic and cultural background, educational and vocational qualifications and needs, family and other forms of attachment to people already residing in Denmark), is an element of the decision of allocation to a given municipality and encourages the Danish authorities to ensure these personal needs and wishes are sufficiently taken into account.
21. ECRI is also worried that the implementation of the Act may, contrary to the Act's stated intention, create conditions whereby individuals will have difficulties participating "in the life of society in terms of politics, economy, employment, social activities, religion and culture on an equal footing with other citizens". In this regard, ECRI emphasises the importance for new arrivals in a country to be able to find strength and orientation in their own cultural, religious and linguistic identity while learning and developing a new parallel and evolving identity within a new society. The possibility of finding family or community networks may also provide invaluable emotional and psychological support, which could prove particularly beneficial for those individuals who have suffered trauma and other difficulties. Such networks also provide the conditions in which these individuals are able to exercise their cultural, religious and linguistic rights. It does not seem that the Act on Integration and discussion surrounding this Act has taken sufficient account of these important elements of integration.
22. ECRI also believes that a climate where new arrivals do not feel respected or welcome may result in difficulties in integration. The current climate in Denmark will be discussed in section II of this report. ECRI would here like to register its concern that the manner the Integration Act is portrayed and discussed in the public sphere may contribute to a climate of hostility towards new arrivals. The notion presented by certain public opinion leaders and the media that new arrivals should be distributed as they are a burden to society fosters a negative climate of opinion. ECRI therefore urges the Danish authorities to make special efforts to counter such perceptions about immigrants and refugees and emphasize the positive role and contribution of immigrants and refugees to Danish society.
- Aliens Act
24. The Danish Aliens Act also governs the conditions for expulsion of non-citizens, including long-term or life-long residents of Denmark. This Act permits the expulsion of an alien for certain criminal offences, linking the possibility of such action for a given sentence to the length of the alien's lawful stay in Denmark. In July of 1998 the Act was amended in a manner that expanded the list of crimes and decreased the severity of the sentence for which expulsion is possible. A number of cases involving expulsion orders have reached the Danish Supreme Court over the last few years, and in 13 out of 15 cases the Court has overturned expulsion decisions basing its judgement upon the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in particular Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life). ECRI feels that the Danish authorities should reconsider legislation in this area in the light of these Supreme Court decisions and European and international norms and standards, recognising the message that legislation in this area may send to the general population and non-citizens residing in Denmark.
- General climate concerning non-citizens
H. Access to public services
- Access to education
27. ECRI has learned that youth from certain minority groups are experiencing difficulties in the Danish school system and, in some cases, dropping out early, in spite of existing efforts by the Danish authorities. ECRI suggests that this issue should be further investigated and addressed. ECRI also believes that additional measures should be taken to assist children with a mother tongue other than Danish to be able to participate fully and successfully within the mainstream school system. In this respect, ECRI notes interesting initiatives involving language stimulation, mother tongue education and the teaching of Danish as a second language. ECRI considers that it would be extremely beneficial if such initiatives were further extended and integrated into the mainstream activities of schools. The Danish authorities may also wish to consider ways in which they may offer special support to recently arrived children experiencing particular difficulties arising from events relating to their migration.
I. Vulnerable groups
29. ECRI is deeply concerned about this situation and urges the Danish authorities to address these problems, drawing inspiration from ECRI's policy recommendation No 5 on combating intolerance and discrimination against Muslims. In particular, ECRI recommends that the Danish authorities undertake awareness-raising measures in the public sphere as well as in the education system in order to promote a more objective and informed perception of Muslims, emphasising the diversity within the community and religion and their positive contribution to Danish society. ECRI also encourages public opinion leaders to promote a more informed and diverse image of Muslims and Islam, avoiding negative stereotypes, generalisations and other expressions that promote intolerance and hostility. The Danish authorities should engage in discussions with representatives of the Muslim community and consistently involve them in measures directed at improving the situation of Muslims.
30. Muslims also experience difficulties practicing their religion. In some regions they have been unable to build mosques or exercise funeral rites due to administrative obstacles. ECRI calls attention in this respect to its policy recommendation No 5 where it recommends that countries "take the necessary measures to ensure that the freedom of religious practice is fully guaranteed; in this context particular attention should be directed towards removing unnecessary legal or administrative obstacles to both the construction of sufficient numbers of appropriate places of worship for the practice of Islam and to its funeral rites."
32. ECRI urges the Danish authorities to immediately address this situation as a matter of urgency. In this regard, ECRI encourages the Danish authorities to enter into dialogue with representatives of the Somali community in order to develop measures to improve their relations with the majority and to combat racism and discrimination against them. ECRI also considers it important that public opinion leaders make efforts to provide a more positive image of this community, portraying its diversity and the positive contribution of Somalis to Danish society.
J. Monitoring the situation in the country
SECTION II: ISSUES OF PARTICULAR CONCERN
L. Climate of opinion
38. ECRI is deeply concerned that extreme right political parties, such as the far-right Danish People's Party (which opinion polls estimate currently has the support of 15-20% of the population) have become increasingly prominent on the Danish political scene, promoting racist and xenophobic ideas. The primary targets of such propaganda are Muslims and other individuals originally from non-EU countries, including immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, with widespread negative repercussions on the perception by the majority population of this category of people living in Denmark. Typically, these people are portrayed as a threat to Danish identity, and blamed for various problems from the economy to street crime.
39. ECRI is particularly concerned about the influence that these extreme right parties exercise upon mainstream political parties. For fear of losing electoral support from segments of the population supposed to be hostile to foreigners, the latter parties tend to adopt a rhetoric portraying non-Danes as a problem within Danish society, thus contributing to a climate of xenophobia and intolerance. This political climate may also be connected with the adoption of restrictive policies and legislation, notably as concerns immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, but also having repercussions for, and in some cases directly affecting, ethnic minorities who are Danish citizens.
40. ECRI stresses that all political parties and representatives have a responsibility to resist the temptation to approach issues related to ethnic minorities and immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in a negative fashion in order to gain votes. Political parties should take a firm stand against any forms of racism, discrimination and xenophobia and refuse to adopt policies inspired by such sentiments. Instead politicians should publicly challenge all such ideas with a more well-informed and realistic portrayal of the situation of ethnic minorities and emphasise the positive contribution made by different ethnic minority communities to Danish society. This firm stand should be accompanied by a public recognition of the existence of xenophobia and discrimination in Danish society, as a necessary first step to actively combating these phenomena. The strict enforcement of legislative measures targeting discrimination and hate speech also sends an important signal that racism and discrimination will not be tolerated in Danish society. The manner in which politicians approach sensitive issues such as integration, asylum and immigration also sends an important message about the place of ethnic minorities in Danish society and ECRI therefore encourages an approach recognising the value of diversity. ECRI is of the opinion that an increased acknowledgement of modern Denmark as a society in which various forms of identity can be associated with the traditional Danish identity would contribute to enabling all the members of Danish society to enjoy real equality in all fields of life.
M. Discrimination in Access to Public Services
42. ECRI welcomes the wide variety of measures the local and national authorities have introduced in order to address this problem, and encourages the continuation and extension of such efforts, targeting all relevant actors in the labour market and addressing the different phases of the employment process. ECRI stresses the importance of identifying the concrete ways in which discrimination manifests itself in the Danish labour market so that effective measures may be implemented. In this regard, ECRI believes that ethnic monitoring in the workplace would be an invaluable tool, enabling goals to be set for policies aiming at promoting further equality in the labour market. The Danish authorities might reexamine Article 4 of the Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, which prevents such monitoring, and consider amending it in such manner as to permit the voluntary registration of employees with a different ethnic background to be used in the promotion of ethnic equality. ECRI also emphasises the paramount importance of adequately implemented legal provisions in this field and recommends that the application of existing legislation in this area be improved, as discussed above.
43. ECRI notes that much of the Danish labour market, in both the public and private sector, is governed by collective agreements negotiated between employers and unions. Unions have been widely criticised for not paying sufficient attention to the phenomenon of discrimination. Recently, various unions have, at the national level, recognised the importance of combating discrimination and promoting equal opportunity and diversity within the workplace and developed action plans towards this end. ECRI strongly supports such initiatives on the part of the unions and believes it is important that the issue of discrimination be incorporated into collective agreements, enabling members to bring grievances in this area before complaint boards. ECRI also considers that it would be beneficial for training to be carried out at the local level with representatives of unions as well as those involved in grievance procedures in order to assist such individuals in recognising and addressing occurrences of discrimination.
44. ECRI considers that initiatives and measures in this field will be most successful if pursued by all relevant actors in the labour market including the social partners, employment bureaus and training centres, the media and local and national authorities. The Danish authorities at all levels have a central role to play in encouraging dialogue among the relevant actors, stimulating and supporting the adoption of new initiatives and undertaking training and awareness-raising measures. With respect to the latter, information should address all relevant actors and include inter alia information about the legal framework aimed at combating discrimination, the phenomenon of indirect or hidden discrimination at different stages of the employment process, the benefits of ethnic diversity in the workplace and the manner in which this can best be accomplished.
- Access to Public Places
- Access to Housing
48. ECRI welcomes government efforts to encourage private landlords and
attractive departments of non-profit housing associations to give minority
groups wider access to their properties as well as efforts to regenerate
distressed areas in order to attract a broader section of the population.
However ECRI encourages the Danish authorities to further investigate the
situation individuals of foreign origin face in the housing market and
develop measures to ensure such individuals are not discriminated directly
or indirectly in their access to housing. ECRI believes, as discussed
earlier in this report , that existing criminal legislation aimed at
combating discrimination should be effectively implemented and that it
would be beneficial if civil and administrative legislation addressing
discrimination in the housing market were introduced and effectively
implemented. It would also be desirable for the Danish authorities to
thoroughly investigate, possibly with the participation of the Board for
Ethnic Equality, the ways in which indirect discrimination operates in
different municipalities. Steps could then be taken in order to address
the problems at the local level. ECRI also feels that further information
and training should be provided to existing administrative control bodies
such as local Supervisory Boards, so that they are able to identify and
redress instances of discrimination in the housing market, as well as to
relevant officials within the municipality. A specialised body with a
mandate in the area of discrimination, discussed above , could also play
an important role in addressing this problem.
1. CRI (99) 1: Report on Denmark, European Commission against Racism
and Intolerance, Council of Europe, September 1997
The following appendix does not form part of ECRI's analysis and
proposals concerning the situation in Denmark.
In accordance with ECRI's country-by-country procedure, a national liaison officer was nominated by the authorities of Denmark to engage in a process of confidential dialogue with ECRI on its draft text on Denmark and a number of her comments were taken into account by ECRI, and integrated into the report.
However, following this dialogue, the national liaison officer expressly requested that the following observations on the part of the authorities of Denmark be reproduced as an appendix to ECRI's report.
OBSERVATIONS PROVIDED BY THE AUTHORITIES OF DENMARK CONCERNING ECRI'S REPORT ON DENMARK
"Re para. 30
The Ministry of Ecclesiastical Affairs is not aware that in some places in Denmark and due to administrative barriers, Muslims cannot use their own burial service. Section 11(3) of Act no. 346 of 26 June 1975 on burial and cremation stipulates that in connection with burial of Muslims at the cemeteries of the established church with a Muslim priest, agreement must be made with the cemetery committee concerning the course of the funeral. However, according to Section 15 of the Act, it is possible for the cemetery committee to leave part of the cemetery to be used by religious communities outside the established church if permission has been obtained from the Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs. There are Muslim cemetery sections in e.g. Copenhagen, Århus and Odense.
According to Section 16(2) of the Act, the Minister of Ecclesiastical Affairs may permit religious communities outside the established church to establish their own graveyards. The present legislation thus makes it possible to found Muslim graveyards. In October 2000 the Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs ordered an inquiry on whether the State owns a piece of land in Greater Copenhagen which can be sold to the Muslims with a view to establishing a graveyard, and what possibilities the planning legislation gives the Minister for Environment and Energy.
On 13 October 2000 the National Forest and Nature Agency stated that it would be possible for the Agency to make such a piece of land available. At present the Agency is going through its land holdings and subsequently health inspections will be carried out, preservation regulations, if any, will be revoked and compliance with the provisions of the planning legislation will be ensured.
Re para. 42
A guide to the Discrimination Act has been published in March 2000 and has been forwarded to ECRI for information.
Although the Ministry of Labour does not find that a national register should be set up on a voluntary basis, it is today possible to follow the labour market situation etc. of ethnic minorities at a rather detailed level.
Statistics Denmark has set up a register of immigrants and descendants which makes it possible to illustrate whether a person is an immigrant or is a descendant of immigrants and all persons can be referred to a country of origin.
These data can be combined with all administrative registers. However, for considerations of confidentiality it will not be possible to obtain data from the registers where it would be possible for the public to identify individual persons.
The above-mentioned register is based on the following definitions:
Statistics Denmark has since 1994 published information about the labour market attachment of foreign citizens and in 1999 Statistics Denmark started published labour market data for immigrants and descendants, including foreign citizens.
Re para. 47-48
For further information about the work of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and about the other activities of the Council of Europe in this field, please contact:
Secretariat of ECRI