PROPOSAL FOR A NEW ASYLUM POLICY
Network "A Decent Denmark" has just published a proposal for a new asylum policy. The proposal is the result of a meeting which "A Decent Denmark" held in Odense district Vollsmose on 19th April.
A Decent Denmark is a network which was founded in 2006 by a group of people "...who could no longer watch passively while our country slipped further and further away from what we have been so proud of for decades," as it says on the network website.
The network include clerics, writers, immigration law attorneys, and representatives from various refugee and integration initiatives. 60 members were gathered in Vollsmose and discussed asylum policy. The meeting resulted in a formulation of a proposal for improving the Danish asylum policy.
Below, we bring you the exact wording:
Efforts to improve Denmark’s asylum policy
Asylum is, under international conventions, a right for persecuted persons.
1. Upon arrival
The first interview should not be done by the police (it is not criminal to seek asylum) but by professionals who are trained to talk with anxious and traumatized people. There must be access to qualified interpreters. All conversations should be recorded on tape for the sake of legal certainty. It should be investigated as early as possible whether asylum seekers have been subjected to torture, and victims must then be offered prompt treatment.
2. Asylum Centers
The duration of the stay in the asylum centers should be as brief as possible. Asylum seekers should normally live in ordinary neighborhoods. Families with children should not live in an asylum center for more than half a year.
3. During the waiting period
The waiting time for asylum seekers should be as close to a normal life as possible. This includes an ordinary home, public school for the children (initially special receiving class), full access to medical care, right to education and right to work.
4. In general
Asylum should be granted after the international rules. De facto refugees must again be recognized as refugees in Denmark.
Child's welfare must be prioritized critically. Whether children arrive alone or with family, they must have a separate application for asylum. The family unit must be decisive for the outcome.
6. Refugee Board and the courts
The Refugee Board should be composed wider. Danish Refugee Council, Institute for Human Rights and Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be represented - while the body who has already rejected the case (Immigration Service) should not reconsider the matter through a representative of the Ministry of Integration. There must be a qualified interpreter and all meetings are tape-recorded. There must be access to try a refusal by the courts. The Ombudsman may be approached as final instance.
Bodil Hindsholm Hansen
Spokesperson for “A Decent Denmark”.
The crux of the matter
New Times had the opportunity to interview Bodil Hindsholm Hansen on the network and its aim.
New Times (NT): How will the proposed new asylum policy be used?
Bodil Hindsholm Hansen (BHH): The overall intention is not only to criticize the current asylum policy - but doing it in a constructive and concrete way. We encourage our members to contact their parliamentary candidate and submit our proposal and of course ask how the candidate thinks of this. Furthermore, we will work to put the item on the agenda in the forthcoming general elections and use the points as background for discussion papers and issues at election meetings.
NT: Who is “A Decent Denmark”, how, why and when did you begin your work?
BHH: “A Decent Denmark” is a further development of a group called “The Parsons' Initiative”. At Christmass 2005 this group, and various other professional groupings, said officially 'no' to the inhumane Danish asylum policy. After a hearing in spring of 2006, we established a wider network over the summer with the inaugural general meeting in September 2006. The background was thus both an indignation at the many rejections and the great arbitrariness in asylum policy, and a growing discomfort with a growing intolerance towards people of mixed or "foreign" descent. First, a concern over the violent xenophobia and the rhetorical shift which has happened over the last 10 years and - finally a sorrow to see Denmark ranked among countries with an intolerant population, bordering on racist tendencies.
NT: How many members are you?
BHH: There are approximately 200 members and as many or more in a contact network that receives messages from the network.
NT: What are your goals?
BHH: Decent conditions for refugees and asylum seekers. Equality for all citizens regardless of ethnic origin. A proper tone in the public debate. A better reputation for Denmark.
NT: How do you meet these goals?
BHH: Some of our members are very keen debaters. We use newspapers' discussion boards and Facebook. Furthermore, we arrange large meetings - as the one in Odense on 19 March. We also support other organizations and networks’ actions, petitions, demonstrations and other events.
NT: What are your major milestones?
BHH: We are just one of many networks that have helped to put a critical light on asylum policy and the demonizing tendency in the talk about "foreigners". We have also pointed out that all the constraints in access to citizenship leads to slow down Denmark and its growth and development.. In fact now it turns out after all that the Danish administration has violated international conventions in order to give citizenship to as few people as possible. We feel that the Danes are getting sick and tired of the xenophobic rhetoric – and this is a big victory not just for our network, but for all humanitarian-minded Danes. Another victory is that awareness of the inhumane asylum policy and the terrible consequences of forced expulsions are now widespread. These facts have certainly contributed to a change of attitude among Danes.
NT: What was the background of your large meeting in Vollsmose, Odense?
BHH: We have at several meetings discussed and criticized the rather unfair asylum policy and legal arbitrariness. At this meeting we looked ahead and created benchmarks for a new asylum policy - in the hope that the day of a majority change in parliament is not so distant.
NT: What is your own background?
BHH: I am pastor of two small parishes by the Mariager Fjord [in Jutland, Ed]. Some years ago we experienced a deportation case in the city of Havndal, located in one of my parishes. There was strong local support to the family who fortunately - because of the efforts made by a local support group – avoided deportation of the mother of two small children. On that occasion I was confronted with an exercise of power, which I never thought possible in Denmark. I discovered that the laws are designed so that it is almost impossible to live up to them. Anyway, the deportation case was turned into a residence permit (though it is still temporary), but only because we put heavy pressure on the authorities - and had great help from the media. At Christmas 2005 I participated in founding of a group called “The Parsons' Initiative” in indignation at another local deportation case - though not in my own parish. Since the foundation of “A Decent Denmark”, I have been the spokesperson for the network.
www.anstaendigt.dk (only in Danish, unfortunately)