Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2023, 12:44 GMT

World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Denmark : Faroese

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 2008
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples - Denmark : Faroese, 2008, available at: [accessed 24 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The Faroe Islands are 18 islands in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Scotland, with a total area of 1,399 sq km. Predominantly Lutherans (Faroese People's Church), their population speaks Faroese, a language related to West Norwegian and Icelandic.

Economic decline brought about a 14 per cent drop in the islands' population between 1989 and 1994, from 48,000 to 43,000, mainly as a result of the emigration of young people. But by 2007, the population was estimated to have recovered to 48,000.

Historical context

The islands were first inhabited by Irish monks in about CE 650 and then by settlers from Norway and the British Isles some 200 years later. They came under Danish rule after the Union of Kalmar. The ancient parliament or Logting was abolished in 1816 and replaced by Danish judgeship, resulting in growing Danization and the decline of the Faroese language. The 1849 Danish Constitution was held to apply to the Faroes.

In the 1890s, following the islands' fishing boom, demands were first voiced for home rule. Autonomists established the Self-Rule Party, which was opposed by the Faroese elite in the Unionist Party. A major step towards self-government was taken during the Second World War, when the islands were politically separated from Denmark and became prosperous through the export of fish. The population did not want to relinquish self-rule, and on 23 March 1948 the Danish Parliament passed the Faroese Home Rule Act. This granted limited self-rule, distinguishing between 'special affairs', which may be taken over and financed by home rule legislators, and 'affairs of state', which cannot.

Thereafter Faroese was legalized as the principal language of the islands, although in public affairs Danish retains the same status as Faroese and is the language of the courts. Faroese is the language of instruction. The laws of the Logting are published in Danish parallel text.

Danish involvement in Faroe Islands economic policy-making following the 1991 collapse of the fishing industry has increased Danish-Faroese tension and led to renewed calls for independence.

Current issues

The application of the Framework Convention to the Faroe Islands remains unresolved. The Danish government has approached the Faroese Home Rule government in order to obtain its views on whether or not the Framework Convention should be applied in the Faeroe Islands. In written replies, the Home Rule government has indicated that it should not. In the absence of representations to the contrary from persons belonging to putative minority groups in the Faroe Islands (for instance, ethnic Danes), the Advisory Committee believes there is no reason to apply the Framework Convention.

There also remains an issue concerning the application of the Framework Convention to Greenlanders and Faeroese living in mainland Denmark. It can be noted from the State Report, that the Faroese authorities have requested the Danish authorities to contact 'Faroese associations in Denmark with a view to clarifying the extent to which the Council of Europe's Framework Convention on Minorities applies to the national Faroese minority in Denmark'. The Danish government has not done this. Similarly no discussions have been held with Danes in the Faroe Islands.

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