Indigenous Greenlanders demand compensation from Denmark over failed colonial experiment

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Six indigenous Greenlanders who were sent to mainland Denmark as children as part of a failed social experiment are seeking compensation from the Danish State.

In 1951, 22 Inuit children were separated from their families and taken to Denmark. They had been promised a better life and an education in Danish to form Greenland’s future elite.

Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953, before gradually acquiring the status of an autonomous territory.

Six of the survivors, who are now in their 70’s, have each requested €33,600 in compensation in a letter to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen.

“They lost their family life, their language, their culture and their sense of belonging,” their lawyer Mads Pramming told Politiken daily on Monday.

“This is a violation of their right to private and family life, in accordance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” he added.

Pramming says he will file a lawsuit if the government doesn’t respond within two weeks.

“We are ready to go to court if the state does not pay,” he said.

In Denmark, the children were deprived of contact with their relatives.

When they came back to their homeland, they were placed in an orphanage, even though they were not orphans. Many of them never saw their families again.

In December, the Danish prime minister issued a formal apology.

“We cannot change what happened. But we can take responsibility and apologise to those we should have cared for but failed to do” Frederiksen said.

But according to the minister of social affairs, the apology was not necessarily intended to result in financial compensation.

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“The government and I believe that acknowledging the mistakes of the past is key and it is important that we learn from these mistakes of the past so that history does not repeat itself,” Astrid Krag told Politiken.

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