Citizens fight back against anti-refugee policy

By Kate Hassett

People carry a banner reading "#Refugees Welcome in solidarity" during a demonstration march in Aarhus, Denmark, September 12, 2015.  REUTERS/Sergey Polezhaka
People carry a banner reading "#Refugees Welcome in solidarity" during a demonstration march in Aarhus, Denmark, September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Sergey Polezhaka
"Dear fellow human being, there is another voice in Denmark."

Last month, Denmark’s Minister of Integration, Inger Støjberg, placed advertisements in newspapers around Denmark with the aim of deterring refugees from seeking asylum in the country.

The ads were taken out in four Lebanese newspapers as well as over social media, in both Arabic and English and announced that benefits would be drastically pulled back for anyone wishing to seek asylum in Denmark.

Using the media as a platform to spread his campaign policy, as part of the anti-immigration stance by which Støjberg’s right-wing Venstre party was instated, the newspapers outlined the strict guidelines for those “attempting to seek asylum.”

These included: the need to speak and understand Danish, not being able to immediately bring their families to Denmark and not having the option to receive permanent residency until a 5 year period had passed.

As part of a response by an appalled public, three women decided to take to social media to refute their government’s claim and make known their welcoming stance.

The Facebook group, called “Welcome Refugees -No to Støjberg’s Deterrence-Campaign” was so popular that it raised over 200,000 kroner (about $42,000AUD) in as little as two weeks. This amount allowed the group to take out counter-advertisements to offer sanctuary and support to refugees who might wish to seek asylum in Denmark.

CREDIT: "WELCOME REFUGEES" VIA FACEBOOK
CREDIT: “WELCOME REFUGEES” VIA FACEBOOK

The ads that were posted in The Guardian, and Germany’s Tageszeitung newspaper, were posted with the aim of countering the xenophobic rhetoric spurred on by the Government’s anti-refugee policy. The advertisement tells refugees to ignore Denmark’s “scare tactics”, stating:

“Dear fellow human being, there is another voice in Denmark – a voice representing peace, solidarity, and human decency,” and promises that not all citizens are “like minister Støjberg.”

Following the advertisements that brought attention to the issue, thousands gathered in Copenhagen to protest the government’s policies. The protest garnered much needed attention for the issue and provided a new voice in Denmark’s anti-immigration conversation.

Whilst no policies have been dismantled thus far, the “Welcome Refugees” movement continues to grow in both numbers and influence.

 

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