Road signs posted in Danish city point migrants back toward Mideast

Migrants are taken from a train in Padborg, Denmark, following police controls for identity papers on January 6.

Story highlights

  • Denmark is engaged in a fierce debate over immigration
  • Anti-immigration Danish People's Party praises the stunt

(CNN)Anti-immigrant tensions in Denmark have apparently prompted someone to post signs pointing migrants to the way back home.

Road signs that sprouted, temporarily, showed the route back toward Syria or Iraq, distant though those places might be.
    Syria? 4,426 kilometers -- 2,750 miles -- in this direction. Iraq? 5,317 kilometers -- 3,300 miles -- that way.
    If the intent was to provoke debate over migration -- or, better put, to intensify the debate already smoldering in Denmark -- the signs have been a success.
    They have been called humiliating. But their appearance has also received full-throated support from the anti-immigration Danish People's Party.
    "We have not organized it ourselves," the party's leader, Daniel Carlsen, said on Twitter, referring to the posting of the signs. "But we support it 100%. We want to show immigrants the route back."

    'We are against all non-Westerners'

    The panels were attached to existing road signs in Thisted, a small municipality about 220 miles northwest of Copenhagen, the Danish capital.
    Thisted is near several centers where asylum-seekers -- those who contend they fear persecution should they be returned to their home countries -- must stay while their applications are processed.
    No one has acknowledged putting up the signs. And they have now been taken down.
    But the debate over immigration in Denmark shows no sign of abating. And that debate relates to Danish identity, a perception of migrants as dangerous, and cost.
    In January, the country's Parliament voted in favor of a strict new law -- one that called for seizing valuables from asylum-seekers to help pay for their stays while their applications were processed, and for increasing the waiting period for family reunions from one year to three.
    While Carlson, the leader of the Danish People's Party, said he had no idea who posted the road signs, he said he assumed it was a party member.
    And he left no doubt about where he stood in the debate over migration.
    "We want to stop the number of immigrants coming to Denmark," he said. "We are against all non-Westerners and non-Europeans. ... The signs have now been taken down but it has started a debate and is really the first time we are really discussing this. The key question for us is: should asylum seekers really be here at all?"