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Joachim Gauck sharply criticizes asylum policy – reference to Denmark’s migration policy

Former Federal President Gauck calls for a more restrictive approach to migrants and suggests Denmark as a role model. But what course is the Scandinavian country taking?

The most important things at a glance

Germany is currently struggling to deal with migration. While the traffic light coalition adopted a plan at the end of August that is intended to make the path to citizenship easier, calls for a much more restrictive approach to migrants and refugees are increasing. Former Federal President Joachim Gauck has now made a concrete proposal for this – and is in the same vein as former Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel (SPD).

On “Berlin Direkt” on ZDF on Sunday evening, Gauck called for a change in German migration and asylum policy. He denounced: “You [die Politik] may have to dare to try new options, and also discover that the previous measures have not been enough to remedy the loss of control that has obviously occurred.” Germany should take its cue from Denmark’s Social Democrats (read Gauck’s comments here). Something similar happened in the Gabriel also said this in an interview with the Editorial Network Germany (RND) in August.

Denmark wants to reduce the number of asylum seekers to zero

Denmark has increasingly tightened its migration and asylum policies in recent years on the grounds that the welfare state would otherwise be in danger. The motto: In order to maintain the Scandinavian social system, not too many foreigners should come at once – that would overwhelm the integration system.

In 2021, the Social Democratic head of government Mette Frederiksen announced that she would no longer accept asylum seekers. Denmark only made an exception for Ukrainian refugees from 2022 onwards. But what exactly has Denmark changed? An overview:

Hardly any admission of asylum seekers

On this point, Denmark’s geographical location naturally comes in handy. The country is only connected to Sweden via a bridge and shares its only national border with Germany – and this is subject to stricter controls. In addition, unlike Germany, Denmark has not agreed to voluntarily accept asylum seekers in order to relieve the burden on EU members on the Mediterranean.

In addition, Denmark has significantly restricted family reunification for people from Syria, for example. In total, just under 4,500 people applied for asylum for the first time last year. That’s more than “zero”, as Frederiksen had announced.

But according to Migration Minister Kaare Dybvad, the “zero” refers to migrants entering Denmark via irregular routes. Denmark is ready to take in people through the UN resettlement program. But hardly any people come to Denmark through this program: in 2022, only a little more than 150 people were resettled in Denmark.

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The heavily criticized “ghetto law”

This regulation, which the conservative government passed in 2018, received a lot of attention. This affects districts in which at least 50 percent of the residents come from “non-Western” countries and which also have social hardships, such as high unemployment or a certain level of crime.

Anyone who lives in such a district has to endure stricter rules than residents of other districts. Children have to go to kindergarten from around their first birthday, and crimes such as vandalism and theft are punished more harshly than elsewhere. If an area is considered a ghetto for more than five years, the Danish government takes further measures, such as tearing down social housing and forcing the residents to move.

This is also why human rights organizations repeatedly criticize the law as inhumane. Officially, people no longer speak of “ghettos”; the Social Democrats now refer to them as “parallel societies”.

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