Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Orwellian exercise in Danish state administration

The Danish immigration service is going to be restructured. It has so far been called Udlændingestyrelsen, which literally means Foreigners' Administration. It is going to be called in future Udlændingeservice, literally Foreigners Service. It's like taking its English name and turning into a Danish equivalent.

The immigration service has been criticised in a report by the state auditors for inefficiency and even some corruption, which is normally not supposed to be very widespread in Danish administration. Denmark generally has a high score in Transparency International's corruption rankings. But last summer it came out that a number of Chinese students had obtained longer residence permits by paying employees in the immigration service.

The new name leads to the expectation that the agency will be more service oriented. That is only going to happen to one group of immigrants, the educated specialist. The agency will be divided into two main departments, one for immigrants with qualifications that can help alleviate the shortage of qualified labour that is acutely felt by Danish business at the moment, and another department for asylum seekers and family related applications for residence permit.

Denmark has very restrictive immigration policies, and this restructuring is a cynical obliging to narrow economic interests. It is not the intention to help alleviate refugee problems around the world, but to favour Danish business interests.

The minister of immigration Rikke Hvilshøj tries to "sell" the restructuring to the public through an elaborate orwellian exercise of newspeak. It is not only the change of name, but also the adoption of the management principles of "lean production" know from Toyota. The Udlændingestyrelsen is supposed to change from a "heavy paper processing factory" to an efficient "lean" producer in the computerised information age.

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