Denmark: Where the solidarity of Europe disappeared?

In all of Europe the support for immigrants is turning down. Also, the Danish politics is tightening asylum rights. But there are still 8,000 volunteers who want to improve the situation for refugees.

By Beatrice Bankauskaite and Sina Götz

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Aden became an asylum seeker seven years ago. She escaped from Eritrea and arrived in Greece. After a long journey through Europe she stayed in Denmark. For this period the refugees and asylum seekers center, which she has to share with around 200 other asylum seekers, became her second home.

She is not allowed to work. She is not allowed to take language classes. Therefore Aden is doing activities in the community house of Copenhagen. Denmark is the place there she settled down and there she wants to stay.

“In my home country we don’t have free place. We are also not allowed to demonstrate or to criticize the government,” the 32-years-old said “That’s why we want to come to a safe country.”

Integration is getting more difficult

But from Denmark’s policy side the possibility to stay and to be integrated in the Danish society has changed in negative way. According to Denmark Refugee Council (DRC), the current government has tightened the conditions for refugees and asylum seekers. This could make integration even more difficult.

The luck of Sweden democrats party that declares anti-immigration policy in the last week of the Sweden elections and the rest of the European countries experience shows the tendency of turning away from support for immigrants.

Associate professor of Sociology at University of Copenhagen Peter Abrahamson notices a “strong” and “negative” influence on the policies of centrist parties across Europe where these parties are less foreign friendly that they used to be and that includes Denmark. “The expectation for the next election is that these xenophobic tendencies will be even more pronounced in Denmark.” Abrahamson said.

In the latest election in Sweden the anti-migration policy party got 17.6 percent of votes, this is almost five percent more than in 2014 elections. In Denmark the Danish People’s Party, which also follows an anti-immigration policy has 21 percent of the seats in Denmark Parliament.

Sociologist Peter Abrahamson explained that there is a big difference between these two countries. In Sweden the growth of the right-wing party in the parliament “probably will not have influence because nobody wants to play with them”. In the Danish case the current government has been using parliamentary or has gained its parliamentary majority from including the Danish people party in their coalition.

More than 8,0000 volunteers helping the refugees

On the other hand, due to the DRC more than 8,000 volunteers are working everyday to help refugees settle into the Danish society. One of them is Henrik Buus. He was working as a volunteer under the Red Cross umbrella at the Kongelunden asylum center, which is close to Copenhagen. Usually he is working as a Chief Commercial Officer at Paranova Group. For eight years he has been arranging weekly social activities for young boys.

He made experiences with many families that are doing well and are making an effort. However, he also experienced that some immigrant families prefer to keep their culture and not trying to integrate into Danish society: “They are not open enough and not working on understanding the culture – we have democracy, freedom of speech, we have […] equal right between men and women.”

From the Danish side, Henrik thinks that authorities and media talk in a problematic way. “We lose track of hall perspective and we focus on smaller problems instead of the big picture, that is one part that has made much more difficult to integrate them.”

One of the ways the Danish Society tries to integrate their asylum seekers are community centers such as the Trampoline House in the north of Copenhagen. This is a place where refugees, asylum seekers, locals and other residents of Denmark can come together and improve the conditions for immigrants.

The Trampoline House is a place where people from all other the world come together. Photo: Beatrice Bankauskaite

Every week there is a house meeting, where everybody is allowed to announce their idea. For instance, last Tuesday a Danish artist from New York City asked the refugees for their help. He is doing a VR-Project in the Central Station of Copenhagen, there the people can feel how it is sitting in a refugee boat. In the Trampoline House the asylum seekers also having common dinners, they can attend language classes or taking part in different activities.

“This house is about how to create a better place to live in Denmark. We can only make it better by helping each other”, Morten Goll, the Director of the Trampoline House, pointed out.

In comparison from 2017 to 2016 the number of asylum seekers in Europe has decreased by 44 percent, according to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

But the sociologist Peter Abrahamson thinks that the anti-immigraton trend in Europe is not going down.“ A huge minority of the population is unsatisfied and afraid of the immigration and or asylum seekers and refugees”.

Target audience: This article is written for an audience that is interested in politics and foreign countries. The audience should be interested in the situation of the refugees in Europe and how other countries (except Germany) are handling the situation. The article could be published at https://www.sueddeutsche.de/.