Experts of Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination Ask Denmark about Housing and Integration of Migrants and their

OHCHR

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. 

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