A Danish Question

James Henry Graf

For tourists, Denmark is a Nordic paradise -- a lovely jewel, full of charm, diversion, and good cheer. Viking history, ancient castles, splendid churches, cultural pursuits, civilized night life, and genial people all await the visitor on holiday.

To a refugee, however, especially a naive asylum-seeker from the United States, this land of Hans Christian Andersen can show a different face -- less polite, less cooperative, less respectful.

On the face of it, the Danish Government seems inviting to those fleeing persecution. Was it not Denmark that fought so valiant a campaign of sabotage and resistance against the Nazi occupiers, smuggling thousands of Jews to safety? Hasn't Denmark ratified all the major international human rights agreements, even allowing submission of individual complaints directly to United Nations committees? Wasn't it Denmark that established the world's first rehabilitation clinic for victims of torture? How could one expect from such a nation anything but compassion and decency? How great then, is the disappointment of learning otherwise?

The United States is unquestionably the most powerful and influential country in the world. So great is this nation's economic and military power, so pervasive the influence of its diplomatic and intelligence forces, that military allies or trading partners are unwilling -- or simply afraid -- to do anything that would displease or embarrass American officials. However sincere the asylum-seeker, however well founded his fear of persecution, if he comes from the USA, he is likely to be rejected, and may, in fact, be illegally repatriated. I was, three times, by three different European countries. The first of these was Denmark.

My Danish saga, related in "Hard Realities," is a tale of deception, insulting rejection, officially-sanctioned insults and harassment, and, in the end, horrifying illegal forced repatriation.

On 31 October, 1991, at Sandholm Refugee Camp north of Copenhagen, I composed a communication to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, charging the Netherlands and Denmark with refusing to comply with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. There followed, on 4 November, a complaint against Denmark directed to the UN Human Rights Committee. Both were mailed from the post office in Allerød, and the Danish police received copies. In more than ten years, I have never been able to obtain any information regarding their disposition. It appears that Danish officials have interfered with their processing.

After rousing me from my bed at Sandholm Refugee Camp on 19 December, 1991, Danish police placed me, against my will, on a plane to the United States. In between, however, Danish authorities charged me more than two thousand dollars for my stay in the land of King Christian II. A year later, the Netherlands and Belgium similarly violated my human rights, but, to their credit, they did not charge me for the privilege. None of it would have happened had the Danes fulfilled their obligations under international law.

I have now tried three times to leave the United States, only to be sent back here against my will. Here I am, trapped in America, a captive seized three times in heaven, held hostage in hell, too poor and too sick to attempt another escape. I get no information, no response, no meaningful support or encouragement from anyone.

Here is my Danish question. Does Denmark, once a world leader in human rights, intend to live up to those international agreements to which it has freely assented? Is the Danish Government so impoverished that it must steal from helpless, desperate refugees, so depraved that it draws pleasure from the suffering of the innocent? Why won't Danish officials respond to my letters?

What has become of the Denmark I have loved and respected all my life, the gentle, compassionate, free and decent land of humanitarian concern and social justice? Was it all just an illusion -- a Tivoli hologram, image without substance? Let me know, please. I need to know.

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Take Back Your Lies, Denmark!

Hard Realities

Questions for the Dutch Nation

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