In Denmark we have a minister of integration … We have a lot of ministers, and they have a lot of opinions. In Denmark, we also have a so-called democracy, basically meaning that our selected ministers represent the people of Denmark. Ideally, this is the perfect way to run a country – a free country, a country for everybody … or what?
Our minister of integration has a plan to lower financial help for refugees. She wants to put ads in international newspapers warning refugees from coming to Denmark, telling them we do not want to help them. She wants Denmark to be known as a country that doesn’t help people in need. This is how she wants people to see Denmark – a closed, self-sufficient country only for original Danes.
I feel estranged from my own country. Here I am – a Dane born and bred – Danish relatives named and recorded going back to the 1500’s – and I feel so un-Danish if this minister is supposed to be representing Denmark. She and I have absolutely nothing in common.
Here we have a refugee – country at war, cities bombed, house ruined, no work, no money, no food, no hospitals, no infrastructure – we have a family, children, grandmother, with nowhere to go, nowhere to survive – they manage to get to the border – they’re dying from hunger, thirst, sickness – they manage somehow to get on a boat – they manage somehow to sail across the ocean – they manage somehow to get to the border of Denmark – and there stands the minister of immigration with the international newspaper in her hand, pointing at the ad, telling these people we do not help refugees – off you go – find somewhere else.
In so many ways, Denmark is one of the richest countries in the world. Yes, this is a small country, yes, we too have to struggle to keep things running, but still … we have financial support for everyone: people without work get a monthly income, we have free education and even a monthly income for students so they can focus on studying without having to work full-time, we have free hospitals, free doctors, free school, free pension. We live well in Denmark compared to so many other countries. Yes, you can find the stories of people struggling to get by in Denmark, of course you can, but by and large, we are healthy and wealthy and fine. So we turn our back to those in need?
I don’t get it.
Luckily, I’m not alone. A lot of people are showing their support to a group on Facebook collecting money and signatures to answer those ads. The other day, an ad was published in a Danish newspaper and soon there will also be one in The Guardian telling the world that refugees should definitely come to Denmark, that we’re a nice country that helps and that a lot of people in Denmark are actually friendly.
This is the Denmark I like to see, and the Denmark I feel a part of.
Of course, then you can discuss how these ads are going to affect refugees. How likely is it that said refugee described above is going to stop at a kiosk, buy an international newspaper, read the minister’s hateful ads and decide: Oh, I had better stay here.
Not likely. And not likely either that said refugee reads the counter-ad and decides: Oh, I’ll go then.
Nope. Not at all. Luckily.
However, what truly concerns me is how the international society will look upon Denmark … Danes … me. Denmark is fast-forwarding towards a reputation as a cold, self-sufficient, racist country with only their own gold and comforts in mind. And this doesn’t sit well with me. I do not want to be associated with that. I am not like that. We live in 2015! We’re ages, decades and centuries from the times when you only knew your own village and everything different scared the living daylights out of you. We live in a global community. We all know everything about each other. Today more than ever we know we’re all the same – and no one today can close their eyes to their neighbours and lock down the border. At least, no one can do this and say truthfully: I didn’t know.
We know there are people in need, we know people are dying, we know people need help – it’s right there on all of our electronic screens. You know this. And you decide, openly, shouting it out: We Do Not Help In Denmark. Die on your own. This border is closed.
I am disgusted.
I suggest we cut Denmark in half. I’ll be on the open side – with open borders, lots of people ready to help, collecting clothes, blankets, food and water – welcoming people in need with open arms, helping them settle, listening to their stories, knowing these are my fellow people, my brothers and sisters, and knowing this is life, this is what it is all about – sharing, being a human being.
Looking across the water, I’ll see the great concrete wall of Closed Denmark, and sitting there on the beach alongside my international family, we will wonder however they’re doing on the other side of the wall. There’s only the rotten stench to tell.