Faroe Islands

By Colin Brant

Far north of Europe lay the Faroe Islands, an autonomous island nation of fifty thousand inhabitants inside of the domain of Denmark.  The islands were first discovered by St. Brenden of Clonfert during his voyages in the early sixth century. The islands then became a place for Scandinavians and Irish to escape to and live in peace away from the rest of Europe. Over the next 1,500 years, the islands remained self-sufficient and separate from the remainder of the continent, outside of one little invasion by the British Empire and an 1814 treaty which made them a part of Denmark.

Today the islands are still significantly isolated from the remainder Europe; they are not a member of the European Union and rest almost 200 miles away from any other population centers. They boast an unemployment rate of around 2.4 percent and a human development index score of .95, which is a measure of the overall economic, educational, and medical development of a society based on a scale of 0 to 1. This is especially good for a small island nation that has an economy based almost solely on the export of fish. It seems almost utopian in a way, but under all this the tectonic plates of demographic and social pressures are setting up what could be a new chapter in the history of these island people as signs of a more multicultural society have emerged on the horizon.

The people of the Faroes are, according to their own census, 97 percent Faroese with a vast majority of the minority population being some other Scandinavian or European ethnic group. Of the non-European population, there are only two groups which even have a noticeable presence on the island, and they are the Filipino and Thai peoples, with around 367 individuals in total. As a quick geography lesson, Thailand and the Philippines are around 9,000 miles away from the Faroe Islands, making it a strange place for these growing populations. However, people move around in search of a better life more and more in our globalizing world, so it is not that strange. What is strange, however, is that almost 70% of these Asian migrants are female, in comparison to the male-dominated migration patterns of almost all other migrant groups. Now, why would this be? The answer lies with the islands need to survive demographically.

The Faroe Islands are facing a crisis at the moment: population decline. It is not the same as the rest of Europe where the fertility rates are too low (the Faroe Islands actually have the highest fertility rate in Europe at 2.4 children per women). The population decline of the islands is simply due to the lack of women on the island. The gender ratio of the islands is skewed heavily towards males. This is for two reasons. The first being more men moved to the islands than women to find work on the fishing ships which fill the Faroese economy. The second is that more native Faroese women emigrate to Denmark and other places in Europe than men. Palash Ghosh of the International Business Times wrote about this saying that due to the close nature of the island nation and a layer of under the table abuse towards women, many seek to escape to a place where they would be anonymous. This leaves a lot of single native men on the islands who want to have families but can’t because they literally cannot find women to settle down with. If trends keep going as they are, the population will drop drastically.   

The people of the Faroe Islands have been trying to find a source of women to make up for those that have left. They seem to be doing this though some interesting methods according to an article in interracialmarriageandfamily.com, which tells women to try and find Faroese men on dating websites for what appears to be a system of Asian mail order brides. Immigration to the Faroe Islands is very hard, to say the least. Just looking at the work permit system, it seems impossible for a citizen to make it to the islands if they were from a non-Nordic country and weren’t a doctor, athlete or circus performer. Even the well-known green card marriage scheme in this nation is not a legal option for people coming to the Faroe Islands so how did these people make it in? Well, there really isn’t an official answer for that, but there is an unofficial answer for it. According to a local Faroese in an interview with the travel blog nate.life, no one makes it in unless they are Thai or Filipino. For whatever reason, it’s easier for them. This seems to imply that there is some scheme worked out by the government on this, no official policy but an under the table program which brings these women into the country.   

This migration is a fact and one of the only ways for the Faroese society to survive, but what about the children who will be born from these migrant women? It is not like these children will be able to sneak into society with no eventual issues, they will look noticeably different from the vast white majority in the country. Will they be able to join the mass majority and call themselves native Faroese or will they be relegated to being second class citizens? How will that affect the next generation? Especially in a society which has been so homogeneous for its entire existence. Multiculturalism is coming to the Faroe Islands it is going to be in the islands’ blood now, but just how will the people deal with the change? Will they fall for the same xenophobia which plagues a significant portion of multicultural societies or will the utopia hold?

Multiculturism is coming to the Faroe Islands, it is going to be in the islands’ blood now, but just how will the people deal with the change?