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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Ask Denmark about the Housing and Integration of Migrants and their Descendants, and about Hate Speech and Hate Crimes

24 November 2021

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination today concluded its consideration of the combined twenty-second to twenty-fourth periodic report of Denmark, during which its Experts asked questions about the housing and integration of migrants and their descendants, as well as hate speech and hate crimes. 

On the issues of the housing and integration of migrants and their descendants, the Committee was particularly concerned about the so-called “ghetto package” remedies.  A Committee Expert asked how many persons affected by evictions resulting from measures taken under the “ghetto package” had an ethnic minority background, and how many belonged to the groups referred to as non-Western?  Another Committee Expert asked how the delegation explained the gap between the number of cases of racist hate crimes registered with the police, and the number of perceived cases of racist hate crimes?  What supplementary actions did Denmark intend to take to address that gap, in particular to remove barriers to reporting hate crimes and to build a relationship of trust between authorities and communities targeted in hate crimes to increase reporting? 

Responding to those questions and comments, the delegation of Denmark explained that the definition of “non-Western” countries was used by Statistics Denmark, and the origin of the distinction was from the economic sphere.  As for hate crimes, they were unacceptable regardless of motive; it was of the highest importance to the Danish Government that the Criminal Code entailed a strong and effective safeguard toward hate crimes.  The number of racist hate crimes had increased from 2017 to 2020, the delegation said.  The largest increase in registered cases of hate crimes had been in cases regarding vandalism.  With regard to hate speech, there had been 30 cases in 2017 and there were 67 cases in 2020.  The Danish Government had launched several initiatives regarding hate crimes; the multi-year financial agreement for the Danish police and the prosecution service contained new initiatives to strengthen the efforts of the police and prosecution services toward victims of hate crimes.  The initiatives included a strengthening of police training in hate crimes, with a special focus on improving police handling of victims of hate crimes. 

Ulf Melgaard, Head of Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said that Denmark firmly supported the Committee’s efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.  A key priority for the Government was the prevention of anti-Semitism.  Denmark would strengthen its efforts to combat hate crimes and had also focused on raising public awareness of its colonial history.  The agreement on parallel societies was in its initial phase referred to as the “ghetto plan” and since then, the terminology had been changed to “parallel society”, and from “hard ghetto” to “transformation areas”. 

Tove Søvndahl Gant, Representative of the Government of Greenland, also spoke in presentation of the report, as did Hanna í Horni, Representative of the Government of the Faroe Islands. 

Maria Ventegodt, Representative of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, with reference to the issue of social housing and “ghettos”, said the legislation had severe consequences for many of the persons living in such areas, and had led to demolitions and evictions in some housing areas.  Since the legislation was based explicitly on ethnicity, it had led to negative differential treatment based on ethnicity, and the Institute considered that legislation to be discriminatory.  

The delegation of Denmark consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Immigration and Integration; the Ministry of Employment; the Ministry of Children and Education; the Ministry of the Interior and Housing; the Ministry of Social Affairs and Senior Citizens; the Ministry of Health; the Government of Greenland; the Government of the Faroe Islands; and the Permanent Mission of Denmark to the United Nations Office at Geneva. 

Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.  The programme of work of the Committee’s one hundred and fifth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public on Wednesday, 24 November at 3 p.m. to begin its consideration of the combined twenty-second to twenty-third periodic report of Chile (CERD/C/CHL/22-23)

Report

The Committee has before it the combined twenty-second through twenty-fourth periodic report of Denmark (CERD/C/DNK/22-24).

Presentation of the Report

ULF MELGAARD, Head of Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and head of the delegation, presenting the report, said that Denmark firmly supported the Committee’s efforts to eliminate racial discrimination.  A key priority for the Government was the prevention of anti-Semitism.  Denmark was also strengthening its efforts to combat hate crimes and was focusing on raising public awareness of its colonial history. 

Noting that the Committee had asked for a clarification of statistics, Mr. Melgaard said the National Danish Civil Registration System did not hold data on ethnicity.  However, statistical data on the socioeconomic living conditions and development for immigrants and their descendants informed the development of policy initiatives.  The Ministry of Immigration and Integration maintained a National Integration Barometer which monitored the integration of immigrants and their descendants, as well as newly arrived refugees and others.  It showed positive developments in several areas in recent years, including in the fields of employment and education.  The Government continued to find that incorporating the Convention into Danish law would entail a risk of shifting powers conferred upon the Parliament and Government to the courts. 

Turning to the situation of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons, Mr. Melgaard noted that Parliament in 2016 had amended the Aliens Act.  Following a judgment from the European Court of Human Rights, immigration authorities currently administered family reunification processes with a two-year waiting period in order to comply with that judgment. 

In response to the Committee’s request for measures taken to combat structural discrimination against ethnic minorities, Mr. Melgaard explained that the purpose of the Act on Ethnic Equal Treatment was to prevent discrimination and promote equal treatment for all.  The Act on the Prohibition of Discrimination in the Labour Market prohibited direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, religion or belief, political opinion, sexual orientation, age, disability or national, social or ethnic origin within the labour market.  Recent years had seen an increase in social polarisation and segregation in early education and in schools; in 2018, the Government had therefore decided that each daycare should have a maximum of 30 per cent of children from vulnerable housing areas.  Denmark’s Roma community had equal access to welfare servi76uces such as childcare, education, health care and employment effort. 

Turning to the situation of ethnic and ethno-religious minorities, Mr. Melgaard said the Danish Parliament had reached an agreement on parallel societies which included a reduction in the share of social housing homes in the most deprived areas.  Municipalities and social housing associations could choose different methods to realise that goal.  If a social housing home was sold, demolished or renovated, the social housing association had to offer alternative and suitable housing in the same municipality.  The agreement on parallel societies was in its initial phase referred to as the “ghetto plan” and since then, the terminology had been changed to “parallel society,” and from “hard ghetto” to “transformation areas.”  The issue had been raised of non-western ethnic minority children living in high rates of poverty, said Mr. Melgaard.  The Government recognised that some children might grow up in financially stressed families if their parents received self-sufficiency, repatriation or transitional benefits, or if their parents had had their total benefit reduced due to the cash benefit cap.  A temporary child allowance was now in force.

Regarding measures to promote human rights education, Mr. Melgaard noted that promoting tolerance was part of the general mission statement of the Danish Act for public schools, which stipulated that students must learn how to live in a free and democratic society with human rights and equality. 

TOVE SØVNDAHL GANT, Representative of the Government of Greenland, said the self-governing nation had a population of 56,500 persons and spanned an enormous territory.  Kalaallit Nunaat, as the country was named in Greenland’s own language, was deeply committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms, including that of equality and non-discrimination.  The word "race" did not exist in Kalaallisut, the Greenlandic language.  From the Greenlandic perspective, the idea of different human races or any doctrine of racial superiority was not only scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous—as declared in the Durban Declaration from 2001—but absurd.  That did not mean that Greenland was completely free from making unjust and wrongful distinctions that fell under the remit of the Convention and the work of the Committee, however, which was why its Government welcomed the dialogue, in order to become better equipped in the fight against discrimination on any grounds.

HANNA Í HORNI, Representative of the Government of the Faroe Islands, noted that the Faroe Islands were a self-governing nation.  While Denmark was the contracting party to international conventions on human rights, the Faroe Islands were a separate jurisdiction.  The Faroese Government had exclusive competence in most areas and was therefore consulted prior to the ratification of international agreements.  Since 2004, the Faroe Islands had submitted dedicated contributions to reports from Denmark to the relevant United Nations treaty bodies.  In recent years, the Faroe Islands had experienced significant economic growth.  Improved infrastructure had allowed the Faroes to overcome many of the challenges otherwise associated with geographically remote and isolated societies, such as a “brain drain” and a deficit of women and young people.  The population had increased over the past 10 years, and the latest statistics indicated that around 2,100 new residents from countries other than the Nordic countries were living in the Faroe Islands.  Of those, 1,035 were from 71 different countries outside Europe.  Several initiatives had been taken at the governmental, municipal and community levels to inform new residents of their rights and duties and the services to which they had access, as well as to address any difficulties and to ensure that they managed well in Faroese society.

MARIA VENTEGODT, Representative of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, noted that the Institute was also the national human rights institution of Greenland.  While acknowledging some positive initiatives, she said Denmark should develop a broad national action plan for combatting all hate crimes, not just those relating to anti-Semitism.  On the matter of ethnic profiling, the Institute recommended that Denmark should add a ban against discrimination, including ethnic profiling, to the Danish Police Act.  The police should take practical measures to prevent ethnic profiling.  On the issue of social housing and “ghettos”, the legislation had severe consequences for many of the persons living in such areas and had led to demolitions and evictions in some housing areas.  Since the legislation was based explicitly on ethnicity, it led to negative differential treatment based on ethnicity, and the Institute considered that legislation to be discriminatory.  Ethnicity should be removed from the legislation. 

With reference to Greenland, Ms. Ventegodt noted that Greenland had no civil anti-discrimination legislation or administrative complaints measures in relation to racial discrimination.  Greenland should introduce a civil law that prohibited discrimination in all areas of society on the grounds of race and ethnic origin, as well as other grounds of discrimination recognised in international human rights law. 

Questions from the Committee Experts

KEIKO KO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Denmark, commended the State party for its timely submission, which implied Denmark’s seriousness about its commitments under international law.  The themes which would be addressed during the first segment of the dialogue were statistics; the Convention in domestic law and the institutional and policy framework for its implementation; the so-called “Ghetto package”; remedies; the human rights situation in Greenland and the Faroe Islands; measures to prevent and combat racial profiling, including algorithmic profiling; and citizenship.  On the matter of statistics, in the absence of data on ethnicity, how did Denmark accurately assess racial discrimination and which groups were most effected by such discrimination?  Could the delegation provide the Committee with specific policy or action plans?  On the Convention in domestic law, could the delegation provide information on how the Convention had been applied or invoked before courts, tribunals or other bodies, and provide some specific examples? 

Noting that the terms “Western” and “non-Western” were used, what exactly was the definition of “non-Western” countries right now?  Was it correct that the concept was primarily based on individuals’ contribution to the Danish economy?  Turning to the policy of the so-called “ghetto package”, Ms. Ko noted that various reports indicated that the measures chosen by the State party to reach its objectives were discriminatory and violated Denmark’s human rights obligations, including the Convention.  How many persons affected by evictions resulting from measures taken under the “ghetto package” had an ethnic minority background, and how many belonged to the groups referred to as non-Western?  Could the delegation provide information on how many individuals had been subject to enhanced criminal or other punishment in “enhanced punishment zones”, and did they belong to the group referred to as “Non-Western”? 

On the issue of remedies, could the delegation share updated numbers on complaints and decisions for the years after 2017 and information on types of compensation awarded by the Board of Equal Treatment to victims of racial discrimination?  Had any additional measures been taken to raise public awareness about the Board, and did the delegation have any information on the impact of such measures?  How many complaints related to racial discrimination had the Ombudsman received in the past years?

Regarding Greenland and the Faroe Islands, what was the extent of racial discrimination and hate speech in Greenland and the Faroe Islands, including online, and how did the authorities evaluate the extent of those problems, or strengthen their understanding of them?  Was there research available on that? Could the delegation provide information on the content and impact of the campaign against hate speech in Faroe Islands mentioned in the State party’s report?  The Committee noted reports that despite efforts by the State party to support Greenlanders of Inuit ethnic background residing in Denmark, they continued to experience social marginalisation, including low levels of education and high levels of unemployment.  Did the delegation have an explanation as to why that social marginalisation persisted despite the State party’s efforts? 

STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Member and member of the task force for Denmark, asked about measures to prevent and combat racial profiling, including algorithmic profiling.  According to a European Union survey, 30 per cent of respondents in Denmark believed they were treated disrespectfully by police, and during the 12-month period before the survey, 41 per cent amongst respondents of African descent felt racially discriminated.  How did Danish authorities evaluate the survey outcome, and did they take specific measures to combat in law enforcement stereotyping and disrespectful treatment of persons of African descent?  Did Denmark intend to adopt legislation or any other regulation to define clearly and prohibit racial profiling following the General Recommendation 36 on preventing and combatting racial profiling by law enforcement? Had law enforcement adopted any operational measures, such as forms on stop and search, or statistics on ethnicity, to prevent, eliminate and redress racial profiling?  What measures were taken in law enforcement education and training to identify practices qualifying as racial profiling?  What percentage of the police force in Denmark was made up of persons belonging to ethnic minority groups, and what measures had been taken to increase their number?  Did the authorities, in particular law enforcement, use any kind of algorithmic profiling in discharging their duties?  If yes, what measures had been taken or were envisaged to prevent, eliminate, and redress the discriminatory effects? 

Turning to questions around citizenship, she asked the delegation to explain which criminal convictions might lead to expulsion and citizenship deprivation? Did the severity of a crime, in conjunction with the person’s personality and other circumstances, play a role and did authorities have the obligation to provide sufficient and relevant reasons?  Did Denmark collect data on deprivation of citizenship in those cases to examine whether there was any risk of indirect discrimination?  It had been reported to the Committee that Denmark agreed to repatriate children from the camps in Syria under the condition that their mothers were left behind, stripped of their Danish citizenship due to suspicion of links with militant groups such as the Islamic State.  Noting the delicacy of the consideration, did the State party consider whether the separation of a child from its mother amounted to a de facto citizenship deprivation for the children, since either their mother would not give consent, or they would have to choose between their mother and their citizenship and return to Denmark? 

GUN KUT, Committee Member and Follow-up Rapporteur, noted that the last concluding observations were from 2015, and that among issues selected for follow-up within one year were racist discourse and incidents in the State party.  The Committee had asked Denmark to combat racial prejudice and violence, xenophobia as well as intolerance in the country.  The Committee had further urged the authorities to remind politicians about their responsibilities to build tolerance and intercultural understanding among different groups, develop a national action plan on racism, including a particular focus on combatting racist hate crimes, and outline concrete results; and take effective measures to combat racist hate speech, including on the Internet. 

A Committee Expert asked the delegation whether systemic racism was present in Danish society in their view?  One Committee Expert asked for further information about the granting of Danish nationality.  Another Committee Expert asked what kind of policy was in effect regarding media and social media? 

Responses from the Delegation

In response to questions about statistics, the delegation explained that data and survey data was used in the National Integration Barometer, which had showed positive developments in regard to employment data, among other information.  In response to questions about the Convention in domestic law and the institutional and policy framework for its implementation, the delegation explained that constitutional rules in the Danish legal order provided for all national legislation to be applied in accordance with international law obligations. 

In response to questions on the “parallel society package”, the delegation explained that the definition of “non-Western” countries was used by Statistics Denmark, and the origin of the distinction was indeed from the economic sphere.  Penalties for a crime could be doubled if the criminal offense had been committed within a so-called “intensified penalty zone”.  Such a zone, which was limited in the amount of time for which it could be in effect, was applicable only to an area with an extraordinary higher crime rate, which created a climate of insecurity for the people who lived and worked in the area.  The “intensified penalty zones” were applied in a non-discriminatory manner.  Day care could play an important role in addressing exclusion and marginalisation of children, the delegation said.  Mandatory language programmes were applied in vulnerable housing areas, where nationality was not a criterium.  Mandatory day care and the language test when children were aged 5 were considered to be compatible with obligations set out under relevant international conventions. 

In response to questions raised on remedies, the delegation explained that the Board of Equal Treatment was an alternative to the civil justice system.  That was due to the consideration of an easy and speedy process, compared to the prolonged court case system.  The Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman was a very independent institution, so the delegation did not have data from them readily available. 

In response to questions about social inclusion of vulnerable Greenlanders living in Denmark, the delegation explained that the Government did recognise that some Greenlanders living in Denmark might experience linguistic, cultural and social challenges.  The proportion of Greenlanders receiving public support was almost five times that of Danes in general.  Many initiatives aimed to support vulnerable Greenlanders in Denmark, such as the Greenlandic Houses, which provided support to the group, including in the fields of education and employment.  Special measures aimed to assist students from Greenland in accessing higher education. 

In response to questions about racial profiling, the delegation explained that measures against racial profiling within the Danish police mainly focused on the education of police officers.  Police officers were taught to distinguish between legitimate profiling, which was based on factors other than the person’s race, ethnic origin, or religion, or illegitimate profiling, based solely on those criteria.  Police officers were also offered education in tackling hate crimes.  The Danish police had an ambition of manifold recruitment with regard to gender, age, and ethnic representation, and recruitment material and police presence at educational and job fairs reflected that ambition. 

In response to questions about deprivation of citizenship, the delegation said the courts could deprive people of their citizenship if the person had committed a crime against the independence and safety of the State, or a crime against the Constitution or the supreme authority of the State.  There were also other conditions under which a person could be deprived of citizenship, but deprivation could not happen if it rendered the person stateless.  There had been a question concerning deprivation administratively, which was the case for some of the persons located in the camps in Syria.  The Danish Government had stated numerous times that it did not sympathise with individuals who had fought against Danish values by joining or supporting a terror organization.  Those individuals were unwanted in Denmark, and to prevent them from returning to Denmark, Parliament had authorised the Minister of Immigration and Integration to deprive such individuals of their Danish citizenship.  It required, among other things, that the individual had dual citizenship.  An administrative deprivation did not affect the children of the individual deprived of Danish citizenship.  In response to the question about children born in the conflict zone, the delegation explained that the Danish Government did not want children of such individuals to become Danish citizens, due to their parents’ actions, and because they grew up under conditions where they had no bond to Denmark. 

Follow-up Questions from the Committee Experts

KEIKO KO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Denmark, asked the delegation to provide the number of so-called vulnerable areas and “hard ghetto areas”.  Was there any area which would not be classified as such if there was no additional criterion which was the share of immigrants and their descendants from non-Western countries which was above 50 per cent?

STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Member and member of the task force for Denmark, asked about the use of police data in other sectors where algorithmic profiling might take place? 

A Committee Expert asked for further information about connections between the Faroe Islands and Greenland and Denmark. 

Follow-up Responses from the Delegation

The delegation responded that there were 25 “vulnerable areas” and 15 “parallel societies” which had been called “ghettos” before.  There were 13 areas which had been called “hard ghettos” but were now called “transformation areas”.  That left 10 neighbourhoods which did not fulfil the criterion of the 50 per cent of non-Western immigrants and descendants.  That criterion could only be used to categorise the neighbourhoods, and never to determine individual rights.  Tenants would never be evicted because of their origin, and the right to re-housing was unrestricted when demolition or sales took place.  

Questions from the Committee Experts

KEIKO KO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Denmark, thanked the delegation for their detailed answers to her questions yesterday, and noted that the next set of themes to be discussed would be the situation of ethnic minorities; the situation of migrants and asylum seekers; human rights education; racist hate speech and hate crimes; and measures on the COVID-19 pandemic, or the right to health.  Beginning with the situation of ethnic minorities in Denmark, she asked the delegation to provide information on racial discrimination complaints received and investigated by the Danish National Police in the past years, and on their outcomes?  Were such cases increasing or decreasing, and were there any notable trends in that respect?  Could the delegation provide statistics on the representation of minorities in political and public affairs, including at the highest levels? Could the delegation also provide information on measures taken to increase the recruitment of persons belonging to minority groups to positions in the administration and the impact of such measures?   More information was requested on how the quality of interpreters in the judicial system was secured.  Could the delegation inform the Committee of any research it had done to evaluate discrimination of members of the community of people of African descent? 

Turning to the situation of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, Ms. Ko noted reports that there was a law allowing police to confiscate valuable belongings from asylum seekers.  Would the State party consider repealing that law?  How did the delegation respond to the criticism of that policy?  On the topic of human rights education, she said the Committee had received information that last month, the Danish Government had stopped student enrolment in six high schools, based on a political agreement to temporarily close admission to high schools that had a large number of “non-Western” students, in order to ensure that those the Government considered to be “Danish” students did not become a minority.  Could the delegation elaborate on these closures, and on how the right to education was preserved for the students affected by the stopping of student enrolment in high schools? 

STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Member and member of the task force for Denmark, asked the delegation to provide an update on the number of crimes with racist motivation registered by the Danish National Police and information on the nature of such crimes.  How did the delegation explain the gap between the number of cases of racist hate crimes registered with the police, and the number of perceived cases of racist hate crimes?  What supplementary actions did it intend to take to address that gap, in particular to remove barriers to reporting hate crimes and building a relationship of trust between authorities and communities targeted in hate crimes to increase reporting? 

Had the State party taken or envisage taking any measures to set up a comprehensive data collection system for racist hate speech incidents to include demographic and other related data on perpetrators and circumstances of the crimes, drawing inspiration from the Committee’s general recommendation 35 and other related sources?  If not, what measures was Denmark taking to understand hate speech trends and combat them effectively?  Could the delegation also provide information on measures taken to address and prevent racist and xenophobic discourse by politicians and racist messages on the Internet?  

On the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Stavrinaki asked what measures were being taken to ensure that the response to the pandemic, in particular access to health services and vaccination, benefitted everyone protected under the Convention without discrimination?  What were the lessons learned in the pandemic regarding the right to health of persons protected under the Convention?  Which actor or authority had played an important role in promoting preventative measures and in assessing the impact on health of groups protected under the Convention?  In regard to the reproductive rights of undocumented migrant workers, it was the Committee’s understanding that under the State party’s law, individuals without legal residence could be charged for all hospital treatment outside of emergency situations, and undocumented migrant women were required to cover the costs of some, or all, maternal health care themselves.  Could the State party provide more information on the situation and numbers of undocumented migrant women giving birth outside emergency situations?  How much were the costs, and would it be a disproportionate burden for the State?

A Committee Member asked for more information about the prosecution of hate speech.  Another Committee Expert noted that discrimination started in the minds of people, and asked for information about an extremist right-wing radio station; was it correct that it received funding from the Ministry of Culture?  One Committee Expert asked for further information about a digital mapping project.  Another Committee Expert asked for more information about the implementation of laws around racial minorities as it related to education and language training.

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation informed that questions would first be answered on the Faroe Islands, and then on Greenland.  The Faroese Government worked actively toward promoting and improving human rights on the islands.  Following a recommendation to establish a national human rights institution, a task force had been appointed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, to examine and make recommendations on national human rights institution models that could fit the Faroese society.  The Government was looking at feasible solutions. 

As for Greenland, the delegation noted that questions had been asked about research and data.  The Government was aware of capacity issues in those areas, and it was hoped that doubling the budget of the Greenland Human Rights Council would enhance its analytic capacity, also when it came to discrimination issues.  A strategy was being prepared by the Government for the implementation in Greenland of the Sustainable Development Goals.  That would enhance Greenland’s analytic capacity considerably, also in relation to discrimination. 

Concerning the Inuit, the people of the Thule area, the Government attached great importance to the exercise of democratic rights of every citizen, without discrimination.  There were several examples of sectoral legislation and municipal bylaws that required consultation with local communities before decisions were taken that could affect them.  The Mineral Act was one such example, and it included requirements that had the purpose of hindering activities and infrastructure associated with mineral exploration and exploitation having unintended or substantial adverse effects on affected local communities.  Another example was the law on hunting, which enabled local communities to have a say on the management and sustainable use of both terrestrial and marine mammals and sea birds. 

In response to questions about statistical information and prosecution data around hate crimes and racist hate crimes, and other related information, the delegation noted that it had prepared a handout with tables which had been circulated to Committee Members.  The number of racist hate crimes had increased from 2017 to 2020, the delegation said.  The largest increase in registered cases of hate crimes had been in cases regarding vandalism.  With regard to hate speech, there had been 30 cases in 2017 and there were 67 cases in 2020. 

In response to questions about employment and welcoming vulnerable groups and minorities on the labour market, the Danish policy consisted of measures including education, guidance and upgrading skills; practical work training apprenticeships; and wage subsidies for the employment of certain target groups.  Overall, the initiative to include more groups on the labour market was going well, and it was a priority for the Danish Government that everyone who could work should be welcomed in the working community. 

In response to questions about the temporary halt of enrolment at six high schools, the delegation explained that it was a priority for the Government to end polarisation in educational institutions.  For a general upper secondary school, in order to attract a more mixed group of students, and to balance the school, students had been divided into groups based on the students’ ethnicity during the first period of the first school year.  The Government had not been made aware of any similar case of deliberate segregation based on ethnicity.  In response to questions about confiscating belongings from asylum seekers, the delegation underscored that it was a fundamental principle in the Danish welfare system that people who could provide for themselves were obliged to do so.  If an asylum seeker had no assets, the Danish Immigration Service would bear all costs.  If an asylum seeker possessed values above a certain amount, the Government found it reasonable that the asylum seeker contributed to covering their expenses.  Items with a special sentimental value were exempt from confiscation. 

In Denmark, the right to health care was conditional on residency, while citizenship was not a condition.  All residents in Denmark had access to public health care services, and all non-residents had access to emergency hospital treatment.  No person could be denied emergency and subsequent hospital treatment in the public healthcare system, with reference to payment claims.  No payment was charged for any acute birth.  In response to questions about human rights education, the delegation explained that human rights education was compulsory in primary and secondary schools.  In response to the question raised about anti-Semitism, recently it had been announced that it would become mandatory to teach students about the Holocaust in the context of the German occupation of Denmark during World War II. 

The delegation underscored that tolerance and prevention of discrimination were important issues that all workplaces must address.  It was not allowed to enquire about ethnicity during the hiring process.  There were ongoing efforts to recruit more Africans in different age groups and with different ethnic backgrounds, and from both genders, to the police academy.  Hate crimes were unacceptable regardless of motive; it was of the highest importance to the Danish Government that the Criminal Code entailed a strong and effective safeguard toward hate crimes.  A recent proposal to amend the Criminal Code would clarify that a crime was to also be considered a hate crime if it was only partially motivated by, for example, the victim’s race or ethnicity.  The amendment was intended to send an important signal that the Danish society did not tolerate any crimes motivated by hatred. 

A question had been asked about measures taken to address hate speech on the Internet and social media; racist statements and messages on the Internet or social media could constitute a violation of the Criminal Code.  The Danish National Cybercrime Centre was in the process of establishing a digital police patrol, which would focus on crime prevention on the Internet and social media.  One of its tasks would be to detect, disturb and investigate hate speech and hate crimes, and it was scheduled to be established in 2022.  Hate speech and hate crimes against Muslims were tackled in line with the general subject of policies and initiatives on hate crimes and racism.  The Danish Government had launched several initiatives regarding hate crimes; the multi-year financial agreement for the Danish police and the prosecution service contained new initiatives to strengthen the efforts of the police and prosecution services toward helping victims of hate crimes.  The initiatives included a strengthening of police training in hate crimes, with a special focus on improving police handling of victims of hate crimes. 

Follow-up Questions from the Committee Experts

STAMATIA STAVRINAKI, Committee Member and member of the task force for Denmark, thanked the delegation for their detailed replies.  What criteria did the police use to record hate crimes?  As for prosecution and conviction, did the courts apply aggravating circumstances on their own initiative, or did the prosecution need to put it in the indictment? 

Another Committee Expert encouraged the delegation to undertake active outreach, as it assisted in designing programmes affecting minorities.  A Committee Expert asked for further details around statistical data.  

Concluding Remarks

YANDUAN LI, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation and the Members of the Committee for the dialogue, which had been frank and constructive. 

KEIKO KO, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Denmark, thanked the State party for its sincere engagement with the Committee, and thanked the representatives from Greenland and the Faroe Islands.  New topics reflected changes in the situation of the State party, she said, such as problems surrounding so-called “ghetto areas” and the concept of “non-Western”, among others.  The concept of “non-Western” went far beyond a tool to designate certain areas, and its implication was relevant to the Convention.  Upon hearing about the concept, another problematic concept had come to mind, that of “civilized nations”.  The concept of civilization was used in the Covenant of the League of Nations, which had distinguished between civilized nations and not civilized nations.  Since that Covenant had been signed in 1919, an incredible development had taken place in the protection of human rights, and in recognising the equality of all people.  The concept of “non-Western” sounded so discriminatory, and the dialogue had not persuaded the Committee about why the concept was absolutely necessary for the State party’s policies to achieve their goals.   

ULF MELGAARD, Head of Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee Members for the dialogue.  Danish society would not feel comfortable with the comparison between the notion of non-Westerners with the distinctions between civilized and not civilized nations.  It went dead against Denmark’s most basic sentiments of equality between all.  He noted that the delegation had failed to explain in a sufficiently clear way that those concepts in social policy had the primary aim of making sure that all citizens in Denmark, also those of a non-Western background, would raise children, live and participate in society, and have the possibility of doing so in broader life circumstances.  He was uncomfortable with that comparison, he underscored.  Leaving that aside, the discussion had been excellent, and Denmark was always looking for ways to improve its policymaking. 

HANNA Í HORNI, Representative of the Government of the Faroe Islands, said promoting and ensuring human rights was a dynamic and ongoing process, and appreciated the inputs on improving the human rights standard in the Faroe Islands. 

TOVE SØVNDAHL GANT, Representative of the Government of Greenland, expressed gratitude for the dialogue, and thanked the Committee for its contribution to human rights, fundamental freedom, equality and non-discrimination in Greenland. 

 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/11/experts-committee-elimination-racial-discrimination-ask-denmark

 

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