Few asylum seekers have taken up the government’s offer to live and work outside asylum centres, according to Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
The new rules were introduced in May 2012 after concerns that asylum seekers could develop mental health issues if they are confined to remote centres where they live repetitive and boring lives without the opportunity to work.
Asylum seekers are now able to live and work outside asylum centres after six months in Denmark as long as they sign an agreement to co-operate with their repatriation if their applications are rejected.
But according to the latest figures by the immigration service, Udlændingestyrelsen, only 41 asylum seekers have applied to work and only three of those were successfully granted the right. The exact number who have applied to move out of centres is not known, Jyllands-Posten reports.
According to Morten Goll, the manager of Trampolinhuset, a social centre for asylum seekers, the main problem is that asylum seekers don’t trust the authorities and refuse to agree to help with their repatriation.
“Even though we try to explain that there is an opportunity to live and work outside the centres, the asylum seekers fundamentally do not trust the system,” Goll told Information newspaper. “Many are from countries where there are dictatorships that use different types of repression. From their point of view, the system is corrupt. They are used to bribing people.”
Of the 6,000 asylum seekers in Denmark, around 3,000 are eligible for the programme, but few have managed to find their own homes. For example, only 15 of Brovst Asylum Centre’s 900 residents have moved out and since early July not a single person has applied to do so.
Lars Andersen, the head of Hanstholm Asylum Centre – where only around six of the 480 residents have applied to move out – agreed with Goll and argued that many rejected asylum seekers do not want to go back to where they came from.
“None of our residents have fled [their home countries] without reason,” Andersen told Jyllands-Posten. “They weren’t just watching the Disney Channel out in Afghanistan one day and decided to flee. Their applications are rejected because they are not personally persecuted. But I fully understand that they are afraid of returning.”
Andersen added that plenty of residents had inquired about employment opportunities, but that the financial crisis had reduced the number of jobs available to asylum seekers.
“There are 158,000 unemployed people ahead of them in the queue who can speak Danish,” he said.
Asylret is an organisation that offers help to rejected asylum seekers, of which there are currently around 1,700 nationwide who are waiting to be sent home. The organisation argues that it is unreasonable to make the offer to live and work outside centres dependent upon co-operating with repatriation, especially given the risk of psychological problems presented by living in the centres.
“Our proposal is to let them work after 12 months in Denmark,” Asylret's chairman, Said Parvin, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “Many of them have resources and are educated. Others are farmers who could help in agriculture. It’s really stupid to keep them in camps.”
But Trine Bramsen (Socialdemokraterne), the chair of parliament’s integration committee, said that the government had no intention of changing the rules.
“We haven’t thought about changing that point,” Bramsen said. “It’s completely reasonable to co-operate with your own case”
Goll argues that the low uptake isn’t a disaster, however, and that asylum seekers first need to see that the offer is actually available.
“It takes some time for the programme to get known and for people to believe in it,” Goll told Information. “They first need to see that someone has gotten a job and that it is possible.”