Straight Up: Refugee-phobia’s new poster-child

Is Mattias Tesfaye off on the perpetual journey of the modern universe? (photo: Facebook/Mattias Tesfaye)
October 25th, 2020 5:00 am| by Zach Khadudu
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Granted, 2020 should be written off as a bad year. And, at the time of writing this, it’s hard to see why the last quarter will not disappoint, as the theatre of the absurd that is the US election will inevitably compound a year that has been like no other. 

The lows have been numerous: the coronavirus pandemic that continues to ravage most of the world’s people and economies, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May that sparked the global Black Lives Matter demonstrations, the contested elections in Belarus, and the Armenia-Azerbaijan bloody conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, to name but a few. The list goes on and on.

And don’t forget the deaths of so many globally-admired individuals, from basketball legend Kobe Bryant and civil rights leader John Lewis, to US Supreme Court trailblazer Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the King himself, Chadwick Boseman.  

All in all, there are just too many unflattering events to fit in just one piece. 

Perennially thorny issue
Here in Denmark we have had our fair share of reckonings: not least, the perennial discussion regarding refugees and asylum-seekers, which is like a cancer that refuses to go away. 

Discussion is a misnomer, in fact. The correct word is demonisation. There is an insatiable appetite in Denmark to demonise and disparage refugees for their political mileage. And it is derision solely founded on racism and Islamophobia. 

The new poster-child for refugee-phobia is the current immigration and integration minister, Mattias Tesfaye. This man, it seems, will always find a new low to sink to. His rhetoric on asylum-seekers during his term of office has been both combative and extreme. And to think he is supposed to be a social-democrat. 

Playing to the gallery
Speaking to Jyllands-Posten newspaper (choosing the right-wing newspaper as his oracle says it all really) Tesfaye revealed that his latest bright idea is to propose legislation that will allow the government to monitor and tap the phones of rejected asylum-seekers due for deportation. 

The minister contends that this move is aimed at modernising deportation policies to match the 21st century. Really, Sir? The man lives in a parallel universe if he indeed believes that surveillance is a trait that should be admired, not frowned upon, in the 21st century. 

The universal right to individual privacy means nothing to Tesfaye. Just as they mean nothing to any tyrant or despot, cue Kim Jong-un. The man is playing to the gallery with utter disregard for democratic principles. 

Day of reckoning coming
It is estimated there are about 1,100 rejected asylum-seekers in Denmark due for deportation. Over 200 of those have been living with their deportable status hanging over them for at least five years. 

Tesfaye believes he will clean Denmark of these pests by any means necessary. Good luck, Sir. Like your predecessor, Inger Støjberg, you may enforce inhumane policies with no consideration for human rights. And you may even succeed in deporting all of the 1,000-plus rejected asylum-seekers. But a time for accountability will come. 

It’s difficult to recall a time when Martin Luther King Jr’s words have ever been more pertinent. As the great man remarked: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”

Zach Khadudu


Zach Khadudu is a Kenyan by birth and a journalist by choice. He is a commentator and an activist with a passion for refugee and human rights. He may share a heritage with a certain US president, but his heart lies elsewhere – in the written and spoken word.