December 20, 2011

Denmark Expells Educated, Danish-Speaking Immigrant, 28 Years Old

After the American Century

Denmark had an election recently, and one of the issues was the poor treatment of immigrants. But nothing seems to have changed.  They are still treated badly, regardless of their education, ability to speak Danish, or integration into society. And the authorities continue to take many months longer to decide cases than they are supposed to, according to their own rules.

The latest case concerns the son of the former Albanian ambassador to Denmark. He came when 18 years old, studied in gymnasium, learned Danish, graduated, was admitted to Copenhagen University, and has all but completed his MA in Economics. He has been in Denmark for ten years. As these facts would suggest, his Danish is reportedly excellent, He has also been working part time, gaining experience he will need after completing his MA thesis, to be turned in shortly.  For those readers who can follow this story in Danish, see the story in Politiken.

This young man would seem to be a model of integration based on hard work and education. He has received his university training free from the Danish state. Now, just as he is ready to work and contribute to society, he has been told to leave the country. The government authorities took 10 months to handle his case, instead of the three months that they are supposed to abide by. This case is obviously is enormously complex! Should a talented, multilingual immigrant who speaks Danish be allowed to stay or should the investment made in his education be thrown away, by expelling him?

Such cases are warning to all who think of coming to work or study in Denmark. The new government has not yet been any better than the xenophobic government it replaced. Even those who learn the language and obviously have skills can be expelled based on complex rules that the bureaucracy seems unable to interpret in a timely fashion. And so, a young man has been told to leave with less than 30 days notice. Instead of writing the last pages of his MA thesis, due in 22 days, he has been sent packing. By tomorrow, the shortest day of the year, he must be out of the country. 

I suppose the only "good" thing one can say is that the poor treatment of immigrants is absolutely even-handed, with the same slow decision-making and expulsions for all, regardless of class or social standing. In this case, being the son of an ambassador and working part-time at the Albanian Embassy was no help to him.

The new government continues to disgrace itself. The rhetoric is that the country wants to attract highly qualified immigrants. The reality is that the slow-moving bureaucracy remains as xenophobic as ever. What is Denmark doing to itself?

Knowing of such cases, what am I to say to the foreign students currently enrolled in the MA program I helped to establish in 2002?  What about the prospects for foreign students who may enroll in the new BA program that begins in the fall of 2012? What am I to say to those who write asking for information, with plans to apply for next year?  Will they be given a chance to stay, when they complete their degrees, or will they be summarily expelled?