Danish far-right party accused of antisemitism over elderly care remarks

Far-right Danish party Nye Borgerlige (New Right) was criticised on Monday after one of its lawmakers suggested it is acceptable to refuse help from home carers if they are Jewish or gay. The party denied it supports discrimination in the care sector.

Danish far-right party accused of antisemitism over elderly care remarks
Member of parliament with the Nye Borgerligeparty, Mette Thiesen. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

One of Nye Borgerlige’s (“New Right” in English) four MPs, Mette Thiesen, responded to a question on a radio programme by saying it was okay for an elderly person to refuse care from anyone they did not want in their home, even if the refusal was based on that person being Jewish or gay.

Speaking to DR’s P1 Morgen programme, Thiesen was asked whether it would be acceptable to for people who receive home care to refuse a carer if that person was, for example, Jewish or gay.

In response, she said that “very generally, as an elderly person you must have the option to say ‘no’ to people who are entering your home”.

Pelle Dragsted, a former member of parliament with the left wing Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) party, tweeted the radio clip, writing “it is very, very concerning that there is a party that thinks antisemitic views should be a legitimate reason to refuse carers”.

In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen wrote that “Nye Borgelige apparently think that you should be able to refuse elderly care staff – including based on homosexuality, or if they are Jewish”.

“That is a proposal which is destructive for all societies, including the Danish one,” she wrote, adding that staff should be “judged on their qualifications. Nothing else.”

Nye Borgerlige leader Pernille Vermund subsequently said the far-right party “has not proposed Jewish and homosexual people should be kept out of home social care”, but that elderly people should always be able to decide who they allow into their home.

“The rules today are already such that it’s the elderly person alone who decides who they want to let into their home”, she added.

“We think that Jews, Muslims and homosexuals can be just as good carers as anyone else and there is no objective reason to reject a carer because of religion or sexual orientation alone,” she wrote in a blog post.

She added that elderly persons should be allowed to decide who they allow into their homes but that they cannot expect local authorities to provide an alternative carer should they turn someone away.

The Nye Borgerlige party wants to tighten Denmark’s immigration laws and hold a referendum on EU membership. It entered the Danish parliament at the 2019 election, establishing itself as part of the ‘blue bloc’ of allied parties on the right of Danish politics.

The party is projected to gain around four seats at the election according to current polling.

READ ALSO: ‘Bloc politics’: A guide to understanding parliamentary elections in Denmark

Thiesen’s comment is linked to an earlier discussion during Denmark’s election build-up, in which a similar question was posed in relation to carers who wear the Muslim head scarf, hijab.

After another far-right party, the Danish People’s Party, said it would support new rules allowing elderly people to refuse care from staff who wear the hijab, other conservative parties said they did not share that stance.

At the time, Vermund said that her party did not want a change in the rules, as existing rules already allowed for free choice in the area.

“There’s nothing new in this. The rules are already such that it’s the free choice of the individual, firstly whether they want home care, and secondly who they want to provide that care,” party leader Pernille Vermund said.

“This isn’t something we’re proposing,” Vermund said, calling the issue a “strange discussion” and “something that came up based on a question from a journalist”.

READ ALSO: Do Danish conservative parties support refusal of carers who wear the hijab?

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Danish employment minister against easing immigration rules for labour

Denmark’s employment minister, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, is not in favour of easing immigration rules to make it easier for companies to recruit foreign labour despite calls from elsewhere in the government to do so.

Danish employment minister against easing immigration rules for labour

Social Democrat Halsboe-Jørgensen said she was against allowing more foreign labour in Denmark, saying it could have a negative impact on society.

“As a government we must have an eye on everything. The question I have to ask myself as minister, which individual employers don’t ask themselves is, that if they get those workers, let’s say from an African country, what does that mean for the cohesive force [of society],” the minister said in an interview with newspaper Politiken.

Government policies on labour and immigration are closely related, she said in the interview.

“I think they are related when you start talking about, for example, 50,000 [people] from Kenya. Then we certainly must look not only at what it what do for the place of work those people are taken into, but very much also what it would do to society as a whole,” she said, citing a figure recently given by the Danish Chamber of Commerce in a proposal for raising Denmark’s international workforce.

“I think individual people from Kenya could be of great benefit to Denmark but I think that the number means something,” she said.

The minister recognised that foreign recruitment from both inside and outside the EU could ease the labour shortage, but said that recent talk of seeking agreements with non-EU countries on the area, as well as easing existing rules, was not in line with the immigration policy followed by the Social Democrats.

“It’s now been a while since almost everyone at Christiansborg [parliament, ed.] fortunately recognised that the number [of immigrants] means something,” the minister said in reference to the so-called ‘paradigm shift’ of 2019, in which most parties inside and outside of government agreed on a stricter approach to immigration, particularly asylum.

Businesses and other political parties – including partners in the coalition government – have more recently come out strongly in favour of more foreign labour to address Denmark’s ongoing shortage in many sectors.

READ ALSO: Fear of slack migration rules holds back Denmark on foreign labour: Deputy PM

Young Danes who are currently not engaged on the labour market should instead be drawn upon to help ease the worker shortage, according to the minister.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of coalition partner the Moderate party, said last month that Denmark’s businesses should be allowed to freely hire international staff, provided they comply with labour market collective agreements.

“The proposal we have should speak directly to a good social democrat because it’s a real tribute to the Danish labour model,” Rasmussen said at the time.

Rasmussen has previously suggested Africa, citing Kenya as a possible example, as a region in which Denmark could seek agreements with specific countries in relation to recruitment of labour.

Earlier in September, deputy prime minister and economy minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said a fear of being seen as weak on immigration is a factor in Danish politics which hinders measures to recruit much-needed labour from abroad.

Ellemann-Jensen is leader of the Liberal (Venstre) party, the third partner in the coalition.

“Since the 2000s, successive governments have tightened the [immigration] rules,” Ellemann-Jensen said.

“But we have ended up in a situation where we are afraid of making sensible and necessary decisions that would ensure international labour for fear of being called ‘a slackener’,” he said at a Danish Chamber of Commerce event.

Some 42 percent of Danish businesses said they were short of labour in 2022, according to figures from national agency Statistics Denmark reported by Politiken.

The Confederation of Danish Industry has called for action to avoid a potential shortage of labour amounting to 130,000 people within the next ten years, the newspaper writes.