Denmark makes handshake mandatory for naturalisation

25th Jan 2019
Denmark makes handshake mandatory for naturalisation

Denmark’s Immigration and Integration Minister Inger Støjberg has brushed off criticism of the mandatory handshake policy for would-be Dane citizens

(Photo: Arno Mikkor, Aron Urb/ Creative Commons)

Nadine Osman

Lawmakers in Denmark have approved a government-backed proposal to force citizenship applicants to shake hands with the official carrying out naturalisation ceremonies.

The new citizenship Bill which was approved on December 21 has been the subject of a heated debate since last summer and has been criticised for discriminating against Muslims.
It requires those applying for Danish citizenship handshake with immigration officials.

Critics of the Bill argue that it’s aimed at discouraging Muslims from seeking Danish citizenship, calling the proposal discriminatory and describing it as an unnecessary formality.

The proposal was backed by Denmark’s three-party minority Government, with the driving force behind the legislation being the Conservative Party and anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party (DDP).

The changes to the naturalisation ceremony, which came into effect on January 1, have been met with strong opposition from the local officials who conduct such proceedings. Some mayors have already said they will ignore the new guidelines.

The Mayor of Kerteminde has gone so far as to imply that he would rather not show up at work than coerce an applicant to shake his hand.“Shaking hands does not show if you are integrated or not. I think I will probably find an excuse and the Deputy Mayor will come to work that day,” said Kasper Ejsing Olesen.

Another Mayor, Ole Bjørstorp of Ishøj, said the demand was unreasonable and unconstitutional. “I’m obliged to take into consideration the fact that we have freedom of religion in Denmark. That’s the decisive factor for me,” he said.

The bureaucracy associated with the new ceremonies will cost taxpayers an additional 2,400 kroner (£291) double the current fee. However, the proponents of the new guidelines believe it’s a fair price to pay to become a Dane. DDP spokesman Christian Langball said, “When you consider that you are receiving the gift of Danish citizenship, I actually don’t think it’s that expensive. I think it is a tremendously large and valuable gift.”

Denmark’s Integration Minister, Inger Støjberg, a member of the centre-right Venstre party, brushed off the criticism, insisting that a handshake is “a completely natural part of the ceremony.”

The Bill is another step in the Danish Government’s wide-ranging crackdown on migration.
Earlier this month, Støjberg proposed sending rejected asylum seekers to a remote island, about two miles from the mainland. Some 100 failed asylum seekers and criminal migrants are going to be brought to the islet in the Baltic Sea on a ferry under the plan.

In August, hundreds protested against a “niqab ban”. Denmark has also been enforcing a controversial law allowing authorities to confiscate cash and valuables from refugees to fund their stay in Denmark since 2016.

In Switzerland, a Muslim couple were denied citizenship because they refused to shake hands with members of the opposite sex at interviews.

In Sweden, a woman was awarded SEK40,000 (£3,400) after her job interview was cut short when she refused to shake hands with a male interviewer. France’s top court ruled this year that an Algerian woman’s refusal to shake hands with male officials at a naturalisation ceremony was reason enough to deny her citizenship.

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