Like in the U.S., immigration is a huge topic of debate in Denmark. Many Danes are not welcoming to foreigners who come to Denmark in search of a safer, more secure environment. Because Danes feel that immigrants threaten their job security and Denmark has traditionally been a homogenous society, many Danes hold prejudices against any minority. Many of the immigrants to Denmark come from eastern European countries or the Middle East, like Poland, Turkey, Afghanistan, Syria, Greenland etc, and these are the populations that are discriminated against the most.
The people who make it to Denmark are some of the lucky ones from their respective countries, but they still have a long process before they are granted asylum in Denmark. While they wait, often for many months or even years, these refugees are in a sort of limbo where they can only wait for their papers to be processed. The asylum housing is often far removed from society and people there don’t trust one another. This is the life of an asylum seeker.
As part of my core class, Cross Cultural Communications, we worked with some of these refugees on the New Times magazine. This magazine is produced solely by asylum seekers in Denmark. Although they often live far away from Copenhagen, the refugees share their experiences, give advice and provide resources to other refugees in Denmark by writing for New Times. We wrote articles or composed photo essays or videos about alternative aspects of Danish culture. Helping with New Times also gives the refugees something to pass the time while they are waiting those long months.
My group worked on an article about dumpster diving with S— from Afghanistan. He had to leave because he was writing controversial articles and rumors spread that he was “working for the wrong people” (i.e. the U.S. military). Of course, he wasn’t working for anybody but the papers, but he decided it was safer to leave the country and let people forget about him for a while. Like S—, many refugees left their countries to escape life-threatening situations; some people come from war-torn places, some escape from dangerous people, and some are looking for a better life for their families.
I can’t decide what I think countries should do about immigration laws. If anything, this experience has presented more questions than answers, but I’m glad that I now know what it is like for a refugee. I can see and sympathize with both sides of the issue. The Danish people are afraid of their job security and pay, but the asylum seekers want/need a better life, and returning to their home country often isn’t an option. In the mean time, these refugees keep waiting…