Grain of Sand | Don’t invalidate my existence

I have been struggling for quite some time with the integration policy of the city of Aarhus. It is difficult to prove discrimination in this case because it is in a piece of Danish legislation and is enforced by a cabal of people, who in my opinion have no compassion or understanding of refugees.


Since March 2012, I have been the victim of a long, painful and shameful experience at the hands of officials who work for the city’s integration programme.


I came here under an invitation of the ICORN [International Cities of Refuge Network] programme, because I am persecuted by the Mugabe dictatorship for writing my opinions. I had a two-year stay, which was not going to be extended since the Friby programme [part of an international network that gives shelter to persecuted writers] was cut. I knew I could not return to Zimbabwe, but I was given no assistance whatsoever with an asylum application – I wasn’t even given an address for an asylum centre where I could apply for refuge.


So I applied online and was subsequently summoned to Sandholm Asylum Centre, where I was met with armed security personnel who interrogated me about how I had come to Denmark, despite coming here legally under the ICORN programme. Finally they understood that I was a guest writer and they began to treat me like a human being, perhaps out of shame or guilt, or the fear that I would leak their treatment to the press.


My big problems started when I got the political asylum. I was moved from the ICORN programme to the standard integration programme. It was not taken into account that I had been living here for almost two years.  When I asked for my so-called ‘Integration contract’, which I don’t even understand, to reflect that I am a writer and I intend to work as a writer, the official at the integration office refused.


This made me feel that this integration is out to destroy everything I have ever stood for in my life. This renders my whole dedication and activism to a better life for my people meaningless. Her refusal made me feel invalidated considering that I came to Denmark precisely because I am a persecuted author.


The integration officials did not take any of my past experience into consideration. I feel that they want to mould me into something I am not.


Their attitude with me and many others has been that of either wilful misunderstanding or simply not understanding at all how to help me integrate. After all, I consider myself well integrated. When I was on the ICORN programme, nobody told me about these integration issues, but when I applied for asylum, suddenly I had these officials come out and treat me suspiciously and undermine my very existence by their refusal to recognise what I stand for.


Every day I live in fear of the integration officials. This is affecting my concentration at school and I can’t sleep at night. I am constantly thinking of how to get these people off my back. I have no faith in the Aarhus integration system at all. It has so far been counter-productive, despite my efforts to work with the community to build a better and more tolerant city.


I need help. These people are putting me under enormous pressure, but I am a strong person and I refuse to bend to their will. I refuse to comply with their directives until they start treating me and many others as people, try and understand how we view the world, and also acknowledge our efforts. I am protesting the negative suspicious way in which the integration officials deal with refugees in Aarhus.


I am preparing to go on a hunger strike to raise awareness of this issue, but before that happens, I have turned to the mayor’s office to seek a solution to this prolonged agony that I have endured. I have also written a letter to the integration minister and prime minister.


The Aarhus mayor is my final hope before I go on a hunger strike protest to draw attention to a discriminatory piece of legislation and practices of integration officials who have no understanding of what it means to be in exile.

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