Danes who were ruled too sick or disabled to work, and were therefore granted an early pension, later traveled to Syria to take part in the war, the Berlingske newspaper reported on Monday, citing Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET).
PET shared its report in light of discussions of a new parliamentary bill which, among other things, is designed to prevent Danes fighting in Syria from receiving benefits from the government.
“It is a huge scandal that we disburse money from the welfare fund in Denmark for people who go to Syria or elsewhere in the world, and undermine the democracy we fought for hundreds of years in Denmark,” Employment Minister Troels Lund Poulsen told the newspaper.
“Staying in a war zone and directly or indirectly taking part in military operations is not something that is in any way compatible with getting disability benefits,” he added.
Udbetaling Danmark (Payments Denmark), the agency responsible for paying out benefits, says the law doesn’t allow it to immediately stop paying pensions to Danes fighting in Syria.
“The legislation does not give Payments Denmark the ability to stop payment of a pension simply because PET provides information that the recipient is participating in the fighting in Syria,” Carsten Bodal, the organization’s deputy director, told the newspaper.
“The rules allow you to stop paying, for example, if the recipient is on the run from detention, or if the general rule for international travel for early retirees are violated,” he said.
Conservatives’ Immigration and Integration Spokesman Naser Khader said “It’s crazy that the public system in Denmark indirectly helps support terrorism.”
The Danish People’s Party’s Bent Bogsted, chairman of the Employment Committee, said he’s surprised that one can be sick enough to get a disability pension, being well enough to go to war.
“They have nothing to do in Denmark if they participate in the war in Syria, and have embezzled public services,” he told the newspaper.
The revelations about fighters in Syria receiving early pensions in Denmark follow a report in Ekstra Bladet newspaper in December that at least 36 Danes fighting in Syria were receiving some form of benefits. Local municipalities or unemployment insurance funds are seeking to claim back a total of 672,000 kroner (about $96,000) of wrongfully claimed payments from 29 of individuals, the newspaper reported.