Denmark put to the test on racism

The UN will evaluate the country's programs and procedures for integration over the next few days

'Be positive and convincing' was likely the message from the country's top leaders when government representatives left for Geneva Wednesday to meet before the United Nations' Committee on the Elimination of Race Discrimination (CERD).

The committee has called numerous countries, including Denmark, to UN headquarters over the next several days to determine how each is handling - or not handling - integration of minorities into their communities.

The nation will of course be under the microscope as a result of the Mohammed crisis, which began with cartoons published in daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten, releasing a barrage of anger from the Muslim world towards Denmark. This issue will be addressed, along with what the country is doing to battle hate speech and racially motivated attacks.

In CERD's previous assessment of Denmark four years ago, the country was accused of painting too rosy a picture of itself regarding integration and lacking real initiatives for fighting racism. Some fear a repeat performance.

'I hope that the politicians will be more receptive to criticism and, even though they may disagree, avoid just denying it,' Birgitte Kofod Olsen, leader of the Institute for Human Rights in Denmark, told Politiken.

Olsen said she felt Denmark was particularly weak when it came to moving immigrants into employment. She also said the conditions at refugee centres bordered on a violation of human rights.

'Instead of realising that these people are here, and that we should take decent care of them, ...we move them around from one centre to the next, where they live under conditions that we'd never ask Danes to accept.'

Not all signals from the UN are negative, however. CERD's monitor for Denmark, Noureddine Amir, said the country's efforts to integrate immigrants are generally positive and effective.

Still, the country is expected to come under close scrutiny. The government has previously been criticised by the UN and Amnesty International over its tightening of immigration laws and requirements for refugee and asylum status.

In March, UN human rights rapporteur Doudou Diènes also reported that the government bore a large part of the blame for 'Islamophobia' and anti-immigrant sentiment in Denmark by drawing support from the 'extreme right wing Danish People's Party'.

The Council of Europe additionally criticised Denmark in May over its treatment of ethnic minorities, stating that 'certain politicians and media sectors constantly put forth a negative picture of minority groups, Muslims in particular'.

CERD's results for Denmark are expected to be published 18 August.

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