Evacuee check criticised

The Danish People's Party calls for a check of evacuees' employment status upon their return from Lebanon. Opposition parties call the proposal 'cold-hearted'

A call to check the employment status of evacuees returning from Lebanon has been met with scepticism and criticism from labour market officials.

Søren Espersen, the foreign affairs spokesperson for the government's support party, the Danish People's Party, suggested that unemployment agencies investigate whether the approximately 5000 people evacuated from southern Lebanon this past week have collected unemployment benefits.

Labour regulations require people receiving unemployment benefits to remain in Denmark and to be available for work with one day's notice.

Espersen considered the evacuation 'a unique chance' to confirm or challenge the myth that foreigners with a Middle Eastern background take advantage of the social welfare system in Denmark.

All of the evacuees were registered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs upon arrival. Checking those lists with unemployment registries would be a simple affair, said Espersen.

'Without carrying out an additional investigation, we have the chance to confirm this once and for all.'

The proposal has not received support from the minister of employment, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, however. He remains hesitant to put an investigation into motion.

'I expect that unemployment agencies and municipalities know whether unemployed people travel abroad for longer periods of time,' he told national public broadcaster DR.

The proposal cannot expect the support of social workers either, Bettina Post, the vice president of the Danish Association of Social Workers, told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten.

'It says a great deal about Søren Espersen that when he sees people being evacuated, he sees potential cheaters.'

The opposition also criticised the proposal. Looking into people's employment status as they return from a war zone seemed 'callous', according to Per Clausen of the opposition's Red-Green Alliance.

'It seems so incomprehensible that you would think the man was misquoted,' said Clausen. 'Just when you think the Danish People's Party cannot become any more unpleasant, they go a little farther.'

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