New Study: Young Danes are hesitant towards immigrants

A new European study developed by five European partners and Trampoline House revealed parts of Danish youth are hesitant towards immigrants in their immediate life. 

An afternoon at Diversity Works Photo: Milena Beswick

By Milena Beswick and Bas Brouwer

It’s a breezy Thursday morning when the first shops in the southern part of Nørrebro open their doors. The part of the city is characterized by its multiculturalism and colorful graffiti. Everywhere you look you can find something from all over the world, for example, the afro hairdressers, Turkish greengrocers and Vietnamese spring roll stalls.

On the top floor of a dilapidated building is the workspace of Diversity Works, an integration house for ethnic minorities. Upon entering you are greeted by the smell of Middle Eastern food. Women are talking to each other in their mother language and Danish youths are busy refilling the cups with teapots, which is striking due to a new report. 

Photo: Bas Brouwer

The report: “Perceptions of immigration among young people in Spain, Denmark, and Romania” was conducted through a survey of young people in Denmark, Spain, and Romania in July 2022. The survey is based on 500 Danes throughout the country revealing their perspective and feelings towards immigrants.

The report states that 4 out of 10 young Danes don’t want their children to attend the same school as immigrants, which is part of the classic fear. “Anything is fine for them, as long as it doesn’t get too close,” says Merlin Schaeffer, professor of sociology at the University of Copenhagen.

According to Merlin Schaeffer, Denmark is not as hesitant towards immigrants as Eastern European countries such as Hungary and Romania. Nevertheless, Denmark scores high when it comes to Western European countries.

Diversity works want to make a difference

Diversity Works tries to change society’s perception on immigration. Their aim is to help immigrants and create equal opportunities and decrease discrimination. They offer individual counseling and help them obtain Danish citizenship as well as host social events throughout the week.

One of the young Danes who works at Diversity Works is Dorna Dehbozorgi. She is a project coordinator for volunteering and mentoring. “Diversity works aim to create a safe place for people who don’t have a voice, especially for women who come from a minority background”, she states.

A building in Nørrebro close to Diversity Works Photo: Milena Beswick

Every Tuesday night the living room, where the tea is being drunk, turns into a youth café where children and young adults show up to hang out, do homework, and spend time with others that come from the same background as themselves, something that’s only possible due to volunteers.

“To some Diversity Works is like a second home, it’s our own little society within common society,” Dorna says with enthusiasm and adds they aim to spread awareness and fight prejudice against immigrants.

The future views on immigration

Both Trampoline House and Diversity Works stated that they were surprised by the outcome of the survey as their experience is that the younger generation is more susceptible to immigration and has a positive outlook on diversity.

Asking Merlin Schaeffer, a potential reason that some young Danes are hesitant towards immigrants can be due to the media and how immigrants are portrayed. The youth have grown up in a society where politicians actively work to decrease the number of immigrants in Denmark, which may have impacted their views.

According to the survey, Danish youth are more willing to help immigrants financially but are less inclined to share spaces with them. “This is seen as the traditional social dilemma, where the last step is to marry someone with a migration background,” Merlin Schaeffer explains. “But in some way, this is also understandable since people often also look for someone with the same cultural values ​​as them. If this is not the case, this can lead to a quicker separation, for example,” and adds it’s only a matter of time before the view on the arrival of immigrants is relaxed. The children of migrants are now climbing the ladder. They become professors and journalists. Public figures who will normalize their presence and therefore integrate more. By then it’s also very likely that a marriage between a Dane and a non-Dane won’t raise many eyebrows.