- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 1, 2002

BERLIN Denmark, which prided itself as an immigrants' haven, dumped its liberal asylum policies yesterday in favor of a law designed to prevent all but a few foreigners from settling there.
After a heated debate in the parliament, the uncompromising "new policy for foreigners" put forward by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's center-right government was approved with backing from the anti-immigration Danish People's Party.
The law marks the latest in European efforts to clamp down on immigration, an issue that after September 11 catapulted to prominence throughout the European Union.
The measure approved by the Danish parliament yesterday ends in a single stroke Denmark's reputation as a beacon of liberalism and pioneer of "multiculturalism."
The law tightens rules on asylum, slashes benefits for immigrants by up to 50 percent and ends automatic rights to bring in a spouse.
It also extends the waiting period for citizenship and benefits from three to seven years and demands that foreigners pass tests in written and spoken Danish and Danish culture before they can acquire citizenship.
"We have carried out the tightening that had obviously become necessary," said Mr. Rasmussen after the law was approved by 59 votes to 48.
About 7 percent of Denmark's population of 5.3 million is of foreign descent.
The law drew condemnation from neighboring Sweden, where asylum applications shot up 68 percent in the first three months of this year largely because of Denmark's impending crackdown.
Swedish Immigration Minister Mona Sahlin accused Denmark of "demonizing refugees" and shoving the problem onto its EU partners. The number of applicants in Denmark dropped by 38 percent in the same three months.
Belgium and France also have condemned the changes and had called for moderation from Denmark, which takes over the EU presidency at the end of this month.
Left-wing politicians said Denmark's reputation for tolerance had been scarred.
Elisabeth Gerner Nielsen of the Radical Party said it was "an embarrassing day in the history of Denmark. It will hit the weakest people inside and outside the country."
More than 60 percent of Danes supported the law, partly because they believed that the high number of immigrants was threatening their cradle-to-grave benefit and pension systems.
The People's Party also highlighted a link between immigrants and crime, saying that most rapes were carried out by foreigners.
Human rights groups called the Danish law a "racist" reaction to the terrorist threat after September 11.
Several of the hijackers who carried out the attacks on the United States took advantage of lax immigration rules to organize terror cells in Europe.

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