Immigration in Denmark

“I like the idea of migration in general because I myself do not like to settle down in one place.  I like to be on the move and see new places,” the young Nicolai Thomsan, a student at Krogerup High school, said when asked about immigration.  “There are a lot of problems about immigration in Denmark, and most of them are caused by Danes,” Mr. Thomsan continued, but at the same time he made it clear that both immigrants and the Danes are responsible for the issue.  Immigration in Denmark is a heated topic that has pros and cons.  Those who support immigration mostly do that on the basis of a humanitarian responsibility to help those who are in need, but those who are against immigration in Denmark argue that immigrants cannot be integrated into the Danish society easily.

Nevertheless, there are still so many puzzles about this issue and so many questions about whether there is hope and solutions for it. This article looks into the perspectives of some young students from Krogerup high school and tries to offer a new perspective, shared by the young people against the mainstream media, to help the Danish society be more open to immigration and for immigrants to be better integrated.

First, we need to understand the problem.  One of the most sensitive issues in Europe in general and Denmark in particular in recent years has been the issue of immigration. Immigration in Denmark has been used by the political parties to influence people in times of elections. In the past, when Denmark opened the door to immigrants, many people from Palestine and other conflict-affected areas came here. However, these people were not well-integrated into the society.

Mr. Thomsan explained, “We have a lot of second and third generation immigrants from ex-Yugoslavia and the Middle East.  Some of these guys have gotten into big trouble while joining gangs, and this of course has gotten a lot of mention in the media.  But, then the Danes make the problem even bigger because some of Danes come to say this is all Muslims that are bad people and they just come here to get our money, fuck our women, and kill everyone else and overtake our country, and I think this has ruined all the good parts that these people have come with, especially the food (laughing)!”

That is why the immigration issue today in Denmark is also charged with history.  When Danes see that immigration did not work in the past, then they think it will not work in the future either.

Katja Rottensten, a Danish young lady who is a 21-year-old studying in Krogerup, stated that, “Immigration is something positive, especially for cultural exchanges. However, I would rather my country not go to war. I think these people should come and stay in Denmark who are in need, but at the same time we should do something else.”

Ms. Rottensten’s statement is the wish of many, but politicians have a different idea.  For many politicians, war is politics by other means.  War is actually one of the main causes of creating refugees and, ultimately, immigration.  However, to be realistic, wars will never end and so immigration, so what is the solution?  If immigration is inevitable, then how can the issue of immigration be solved in Denmark?

Anna Osowo, also a student from Krogerup, spoke about her experience in London: “I think the solution for the issue of integration is to live together.  I used to live in London, and I just liked the way so many different people lived together peacefully.  And I hope we here in Denmark have a society like that.”

A relevant and interesting discussion about immigration

Perhaps London is a good example of integration, but why has Denmark not been able to have the same?

Therefore, before jumping to the prescription, we have to diagnose the disease.  Anna Stawtz, a student from Krogerup who is interested in psychology, described the problem, “I don’t think immigration works the way it should in Denmark.  Most immigrants are separated from Danish people, and most of them live in ghettos and are not integrated with Danes. Also, most Danes have negative perspectives on immigrants, and that is really sad.”

Nicolai Thomsan shared his views regarding this, “Yes, I would like more people to be allowed to come here to Denmark as long as they do not come here for getting money from the government and living in shitty apartments.  I think that is not the reason why you should come to Denmark.  But, if you come to Denmark to work, to get an education, and to help the society in Denmark, then I think everybody should be welcome.  Of course some of the kindest people I know are from the Middle East, so why not?”

Both Ms. Stawtz and Mr. Thomsan speak about the reality on the ground.  But what is really the reality on the ground?

On the one hand, the immigrants blame the Danish society and government for the immigration issue. They say that the Danish society is not open to outsiders and do not like people from outside to become citizens in their countries. Some even go further and blame the Danish society for racism.  On the other hand, the Danes blame the immigrants for the issue. They say the immigrants should have integrated more because according to them the immigrants have tried to keep their culture and values without getting to integrate with the Danish way of life.

For now the reality looks dim and as if there is no hope, but is there any hope left that a new reality can be built?  Mr. Thomsan said it all: “Everyone is responsible for good integration.  Of course, the people who come here have to be ready to be integrated. If they don’t want that, then it is a tough way to help them. Of course they do not have to live like a Dane. I am personally not thinking it is not the best way to force them to eat pork, force them to celebrate Christmas and force them to do other ‘Danish things.’ But it is also their (the immigrants) responsibility because if they come to Denmark, and they have thoughts, (if I come from Turkey for example), and in that we have these and these ways to live our lives, and they want to get all of that into Denmark and want us to live that way, then I think it is not the proper way to do it. But of course, celebrate the Ramadan, celebrate Eid. If you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, it is fine, but don’t tell us that we are not allowed to do it. Even if you live in a Muslim area and you say we do not want a Christmas tree, which was a problem last year, then why not? That is our way of life, and of course maybe you don’t want to celebrate it, but the tree is for the Danes who are living in these areas. Help each other. Talk with your neighbors. If you are a Dane and have a Muslim neighbor, invite them over. Invite them for Christmas. Of course you don’t have to give them pork, but especially if they have kids, let them come in. Let them see how we celebrate Christmas. Maybe you can come to their home at Eid and see this is how this is. And exchange the different cultures. That is the best thing about integration.”

Whether the advice of Mr. Thomsan is taken or not depends ultimately on both the Danes, politicians and also the immigrants as Ms. Rottensten and Ms. Osowo held all of these responsible.  For now, a good start is to do what Ms. Anna Stawtz suggested, “I also think it is the responsibility of all citizens of Denmark and the world to be nice to immigrants in the everyday life, talk nice to each other, try to understand each other, and help each other.  I think dialogue is very important.” Indeed, dialogue is the key.

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