13 Feb 2011

Denmark no longer seen as defender of human rights

8:14 am on 13 February 2011

Denmark has for a long time been recognised as a country that defends human rights both internationally and at home. But some now claim that image is under threat.

They say a range of recently tightened laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration and arranged and forced marriages have gone so far that the human rights of Danish nationals are now at risk.

Denmark recently tightened its immigration laws again, with a points system designed to make it more difficult for "family reunion" to bring foreigners into the country through marriage.

The BBC reports warnings of "ghettoes" and a threat to "Danish values", are now heard routinely in political and popular debate.

New requirements are now stricter for would-be immigrants and for those already in Denmark, who wish to marry a Dane.

This is in addition to a minimum age of 24 for both the Danish and the foreign would-be spouse, proof of financial independence and an "active commitment to Danish society".

European and international bodies have pointed out that some of these laws and regulations could be in breach of human rights legislation.

The Danish government denies that its laws breach human rights, and says the 24-year age restriction is to prevent forced marriages.

But critics say of a transformation in Denmark's approach to immigration and integration, under pressure from the Danish People's party, the DPP.

Denmark's Muslim population are the party's particular focus. It says there are many Muslims who are unwilling to integrate and hostile to "Danish values" such as free speech.

EU view

Professor Margot Horspool, a specialist in European law at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, says that the restrictions on marrying foreigners "almost certainly breach European Union law in respect of discrimination as to ethnic origin, and possibly as to age".

She also believes the rules may violate EU legal protection of "the right to family life".