Denmark new tighten citizenship requirements are discriminatory and racist

In June 2019, Mattias Tesfaye (Social Democrat) took over as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration from the former Liberal politician Inger Støjberg. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

After four long years of Venstre and far right parties government (2015-2019), Danes thought it would be a breathe of fresh air after the Danish Social Democrats took over the office in 2019 but it gets even worse. From introducing new tough immigrations laws to striping Syrian refugees residency permits and now these new strict and discriminatory measures in the form of the new agreement regarding Danish citizenship makes Social Democrats even worse. Some experts and politicians have called Danish Social Democrats as the new right wing populist party.

Already Denmark has one of the tightest immigration laws in the world but with these new measures it might become the most discriminatory and racists. The new agreement proposes tightening of the rules in the following areas where some points are specifically proposed to target groups like Muslims and non-western immigrants.

Read more: Ministry press release and new agreement on tightening the Danish citizenship requirements.

Racial discrimination: Muslim and non-western countries applicants

The new controversial agreement includes among other things the separation of danish citizenship applicants into muslims countries named as MENAP (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan plus Turkey), non-western countries which might include South Asian, South American and other countries and the western countries applicants. As the Danish citizenship applicants names are tabled in the parliament after over a year of scrutiny for voting, the names are currently arranged alphabetically. The new agreement proposes to separate applicants on the basis of their original nationality. Although this thought was first coined by the extreme far right party The New Right but despite their absence in this collaboration, their idea is actualised. The reason behind this idea is to probably vote separately on each bill and reject muslim applicants list in the parliament. This will be even contrary to the Danish constitution.

Read more: Partier vil tildele statsborgerskab på en ny måde

Residency Requirement might become 11 years

Denmark current rules dictate that one has to have lived 9 years before one can be eligible to apply for Danish Citizenship. Although this rule is not changed but as one of the pre-requisite of applying for Danish citizenship is to have permanent residency which can be availed after almost 9 years of residence. The new agreements states that one has to have Permanent residency for 2 years before one can be eligible to apply for citizenship. As obtaining permanent residency permit itself takes almost 9 years so the citizenship residency requirement will automatically reach 11 years. This will make Denmark the only European country to set this highest residency requirement.

Employment Requirement

The new agreement proposes an employment requirement for to be Danish nationals. The parties have agreed to set a 3 and half years full time work requirement in last 4 years before one can be eligible to apply for Danish Citizenship. This will be one of the most illogical and problematic requirement especially for young applicants. It will compel young students to leave their education and work full time for 3 and half years in last 4 years before they can be eligible to apply for Danish citizenship. This requirement will also force young people born and raised in Denmark, studied in Danish school and been an active part of Danish society, to leave their studies after they turn 18 and start full time work. Else, they will have to wait for at least 5 years as first they to finish their education and then work full time for at least 3 and half years. It will only make the young people suffer who have already been part of the Danish society since their birth.

New Citizenship Test

The current test contains a total of 40 questions covering Danish history from 7th century to date, politics, economics, societal values and norms, culture, lifestyle and current affairs. The new agreement had proposed to add 5 more questions on Danish values. These 5 questions will be about freedom of expression, equality and especially about religion. The agreement has emphasised that to pass the test one has to get 4 correct out of these 5 questions. The critics argue that these questions are specifically agreed to target muslims and ask questions as to choose either Islam or Danish values. In case this become a reality, it will also violate the Danish constitution which guarantee freedom of speech and religion.

Citizenship Interview

The four parties agreement include the introduction of Citizenship interview. This will be the first of its kind in Denmark history. The parties agreed upon preparing a statement within a year as to how to conduct citizenship interviews. The idea behind the citizenship interview is again to assess individual applicants as how far one has adopted Danish values contrary to their religious believes. It was also first brought by far right party to target muslims applicants as to judge them on their religious believes. It will at least take a year more before citizenship interviews will be actually introduced if the agreement becomes a bill and pass from parliament.

Read more: Integration handler ikke om at bygge bro, siger Venstre

Prison sentence strips an applicant from Danish Citizenship for ever

The new agreement will make it impossible for those who has be sentenced to prison that might be conditional or unconditional and even for a day. The right groups argue that this will take the chance of a better life from a person who has once committed a crime but later got education and contribute to society in a better way. This will also violate the Universal Human Rights Conventions. Critics argue that with this requirement Denmark will go back 100 years as back in 1915, Denmark gave the right to vote to prisoners and now it is taking even the citizenship rights from former prisoners.

Read more: Denmark announces new tightening of citizenship rules

The new agreement has shown leniency at one place where they have agreed to allow South Schleswig residence to become Danish citizen if their children has been attending Danish schools in South Schleswig, Germany. But the agreement also has been discriminatory here as it has used the word Danish-minded residence only. It means that if a Turk or other muslim residence of South Schleswig wishes to apply for Danish citizenship even after fulfilling all the requirement, they would be rejected as they would be labelled as non Danish-minded residence.

Despite the left Block (Red Block) leading party, Social Democrats went on to the right wing blue block parties like Venstre, Conservative and Liberal Alliance to sign an agreement on tightening the citizenship laws leaving behind the support parties. This shows how desperate Social democrat party is to attract the right wing voters especially for the upcoming municipal elections in November. All the three support parties to the Social Democrat government i.e. Enhedslisten, Radikale Venstre and Socialist Peoples Party have shown their discontent to the agreement. They have called the agreement an illogical, discriminatory and shameful.

Read more: Eksperter: Ny aftale om statsborgerskab er ’stærkt bekymrende’

Although the parties to the agreement make it a clear majority to pass the probable bill but if the support parties to Social democrats take firm stand on the issue so it might not get though. In case the support parties threaten Social democrats with no confidence vote which will result in dismissal of the current government and ultimately an end to the agreement at least for a while. Are the support parties ready to take the big step and turn over the Social democrat government? It will only be a matter of time before we know.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.

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