Asylum seekers given homes in exchange for co-operation

The living conditions of hundreds of asylum seekers may be improved through new government deal, but opposition parties worry Denmark will only become more “burdened”

Several hundred asylum seekers will be able to move out of centres and into their own accommodations, according to a deal the government is presenting today.

The deal, supported by Liberal Alliance and Enhedslisten, grants asylum seekers the right to live and work outside the centres six months after their arrival in Denmark.

But only asylum seekers that co-operate with their eventual repatriation – should their asylum application fail – will be eligible for the new rights.

The government plans to spend 124 million kroner a year on the new programme, including the costs of 450 homes for asylum seekers that qualify to move out of centres but cannot afford to do it alone. Asylum seekers with their own financial means are entitled to find their own accommodation or to move in with friends or partners.

Asylum seekers are currently not permitted to work and are made to live in asylum centres until their cases are concluded. Those that are granted asylum enter an integration program and are made to live in a particular city in Denmark for a period of time and are expected to learn Danish.

The new rights were drafted due to the compromised health of asylum seekers forced to live in centres and on financial handouts for many years. Such extended residencies can occur because certain cases are hard to complete, or because a case has failed but the asylum seeker cannot be repatriated due to dangerous conditions in their home country.

Asylum cases usually take about a year to complete, but only about 15 percent of those whose cases fail proceed to co-operate with their repatriation.

This could lead to a situation where an asylum seeker moves out of a centre after six months, only to return after another six months when their case is rejected and they refuse to co-operate.

Anders Ladekarl, general secretary of the Red Cross in Denmark, said he hopes the new rules won’t lead to an even more unsettled life for asylum seekers.

“We hope the authorities find a solution so asylum seekers don’t have to move back and forth between centres when their cases are rejected,” Ladekarl told Politiken newspaper. “It is as damaging to move as it is to spend many years in a centre, especially for families with children.”

The new programme allows families with children to move out of centres after living in Denmark for 12 months, even if the parents refuse to co-operate with their repatriation.

This move was applauded by children’s charity Red Barnet.

“Regardless of whether parents are considered to be co-operating or not, refugee children are first of all children that have a right to a childhood and a life that includes schooling, friends and play,” Red Barnet’s general secretary, Mimi Jacobsen, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Right-wing opposition parties Venstre, Konservative, and Dansk Folkeparti all oppose the new program.

"It means that asylum seekers can be granted work and residency permits in Denmark," Inger Støjberg from Venstre told Jyllands-Posten. "This will increase the pressure in our otherwise already highly-burdened system because people head toward the countries with the best conditions. That is why we are against it."

Rigspolitiet, the national police, estimated that about 1,400 of 5,500 asylum seekers in Denmark are ready to be repatriated. About 1,800 will be offered the opportunity to move out.

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.