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15 Dec, 2020 13:23

‘We have problems with people from MENA’: Denmark changes immigrant statistics to tackle crime & unemployment

‘We have problems with people from MENA’: Denmark changes immigrant statistics to tackle crime & unemployment

In order to better inform public policy while tackling issues of immigrant crime and unemployment, Denmark will now reclassify immigrant groups from various regions of the world.

Denmark currently sorts immigrants into those of ‘Western’ (EU, UK, US, Canada and Australia) and ‘Non-Western’ (everywhere else) origin in immigration and other population statistics. 

However, Immigration and Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye has now announced the introduction of the so-called MENAPT group (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey), a separate category in official statistics. 

“We need more honest numbers, and I think it will benefit and qualify the integration debate if we get these figures out in the open, because fundamentally, they show that we in Denmark don’t really have problems with people from Latin America and the Far East. We have problems with people from the Middle East and North Africa,” Tesfaye said.

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Immigrants from the MENAPT group are consistently over-represented in crime and unemployment statistics, and addressing the group’s unique concerns separate from other non-Western immigrant groups may bear fruit in Tesfaye’s estimation.

In 2018, 4.6 percent of young men from MENAPT countries were convicted of committing a crime, compared with 1.8 percent from all the other 190 non-Western countries on the list combined. 

The same year, MENAPT women had a 41.9 percent employment rate while women from other non-Western, non-MENAPT countries boasted a 61.6 employment rate. 

Descendants of immigrants will now also be classified as foreign under the new statistical regime, despite being born in Denmark. Curiously, Tesfaye, who describes himself as “half Ethiopian and 100 percent Danish,” falls under this category, and insists “I think you should be proud of who you are.”

Immigrants and their descendants account for roughly 14 percent of Denmark's 5.8 million population, while those from the MENAPT group specifically account for 54.5 percent of the total 516,000 non-Western classification.

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“These new figures will provide a more honest political discussion about the minority of immigrants who create very great challenges for our society,” Tesfaye claims.

Halima El Abassi, chairwoman of the Council for Ethnic Minorities, feels the new initiative unfairly divides segments of the population and places a rather negative focus on certain immigrant groups.

“We can agree that we have challenges with integration, but a new collective term cannot stand alone. We need professionals to address what politicians are missing out on,” El Abassi tweeted.  

Tesfaye added that the creation of new designations for immigrant groups is not a tool in and of itself, but merely a means by which politicians can make better-informed policy decisions in future. 

He highlights the unique challenges faced by immigrants from Thailand, the Philippines, and Latin America, in contrast to those faced by those from the Middle East, and the need to tailor solutions to each group.

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