Friday, November 10, 2006

Immigrant wife-beaters in Sweden

Copenhagen Post:

Crisis centres in Malmö, Sweden have documented an alarming increase in the number of violent or threatening incidents involving Danish couples living in Sweden.

Workers at the centres say the cases involve immigrant women forced into marriages with Danish men of immigrant background. The men have moved their families across the strait to Sweden because of the strict Danish residency and immigration laws.

'Unfortunately, it seems as if the Danish authorities have closed their eyes to the problem,' said Agneta Frick, manager of a Malmö women's crisis centre.

Frick said there have been at least 25 cases of domestic violence involving a transplanted Dane in the past year. Ten of the cases involved women who have lived at the centre under protection.

She said most of these women were basically slaves in the relationship and had been threatened with death if they attempted to leave.

'None of these women were allowed to make friends or learn Swedish and none of them could go back to their homeland.'

Swedish police also verified that the problem is becoming more noticeable.

'Problems with the Danish couples have become especially visible in the last few years. We're seeing cases of sexual abuse and systematic violence against both women and their children,' said Anna Gustavsson, head of the Malmö police's family violence division.

Swedish women's advocates blame Denmark's immigration laws for making it difficult for battered immigrant women to leave their husbands and remain in Denmark. The women's residence is typically conditional on their marriage and seeking divorce means being forced to leave the country.

Denmark's immigration minister, Rikke Hvilshøj, said the problem isn't with Danish laws but with the men themselves.

'It isn't our laws that create this violence, and I don't decide to whom the Swedish authorities give residency,' Hvilshøj told public broadcaster DR.

Frick said that the situation affects the Swedish authorities' pocketbooks as well, as it costs around DKK 2500 per day to house an abused women at the centre. She doesn't understand the Danish refusal to take responsibility for the problem.

'Sometimes it seems as if it's just as far from Sweden to Denmark as it is from Sweden to Pakistan.'

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