Well, not quite, but figuratively speaking… Bear with me.
The gentleman pictured is Gus Murray (on Twitter here), an Australian currently resident in Denmark. He’s a graduate of Copenhagen Business School, and has been involved in numerous startup businesses and seems to be well integrated into Danish society, but has had one hell of a headache trying to stay there. This is in part due to an administrative mix-up between local and national government, but in largest part due to Denmark’s hard line on non-EU migration, a culmination of more than a decade of harsh rhetoric and the influence of the populist right in Danish politics.
His case has become a cause celebre with a dedicated campaign website, 11k fans on Facebook and 1.4k tweets mentioning his effort to stay. It also seems to help that – if his campaign website is anything to go by – he’s seems to be a genuine and positive guy, and that for sure helps. In a way the whole thing reminds me a little of Ivanna’s phone in Here Comes Everybody – it takes an eloquent, well connected person to highlight what is actually going on in a society.
Back to Gus: on the site there are words of support from all kinds of people when you scroll down, and stories there of cases similar to his – active contributors to Denmark’s economy and long term residents (who, nevertheless, are not Danish citizens) who face a never-ending hassle to manage to stay in Denmark. A similar example – of a couple having to leave Denmark – was highlighted in the BBC’s Driving on the Right programme, and there’s an article in Politiken by an American in a similar situation where Gus is interviewed, that has these interesting lines (translated):
Some believe that it is too petty for a department to worry about a white educated western foreigner’s fate. Because when push comes to shove, the argument goes, he will probably succeed if he is sent home to Australia.
Perhaps so, but above and beyond Gus’s personal situation, Denmark is losing too, and not only because his business will go with him. His partner is a Dane and if he goes, she goes. Same for many of the other cases of people in the same situation. So not only does the Danish system deprive the country of economically active migrants, it also is a disincentive to Danes to stay as well.
So how does this relate to David Cameron and the UK?
This case is not too dissimilar to the situation faced by a Canadian friend of mine in London who works for a large multi-national. She has been resident in the UK for more than five years, and has made a major contribution to the UK economy in that time, even working for the UK civil service for a period. She also holds a Masters degree from one of London’s top universities.
Yet already at the end of Labour’s time in office the prospect of staying permanently was getting more and more distant, and she fears her firm – confronted by an ever heavier administrative burden to prove her worth in London – might prefer to employ her elsewhere. As an additional absurdity she even has the right to vote in UK general elections as a Commonwealth citizen…
In short, by creating an atmosphere that is hostile to immigration you place burdens in the way of the very sorts of people your economy would want and – as Gus admits when asked by Politiken – most people confronted with barriers of the scale he’s faced would not be able to mount such a major campaign and would have to resign themselves to leaving.
As the mounting number of Danish cases show, no amount of pleasant words from Danish politicians can overcome the increasingly bad international reputation caused by these stories.
Is that the sort of reputation David Cameron wishes to forge for the UK?