THERE AND BACK
After trying to seek asylum in Denmark, Nyang is now building a new life in Senegal. She reflects on her reception in Denmark - including a stay in Ellebæk prison.
I was in Ellebæk last year and I was there for two months. I was caught by the police on the 8th July without papers at the Copenhagen central station. I was then arrested and taken to Vestre Fængsel (Vestre prison). The following day, I was given a lawyer. I told the lawyer the problem I have back home and he told me that I need to seek asylum. I spent three weeks in Vestre Fængsel before I was taken to Ellebæk.
In Ellebæk it was horrible, the food was always warm, not freshly cooked, the rooms where in very poor condition and dirty - even Vestre Fængsel was better. The atmosphere was not OK for me because I had never before been locked up in my life; it was mental torture for me. And to think that there are others who spend nine months and even more in there.
Tolerable - with exceptions
There was a telephone booth where I could make calls to the outside, but an outsider cannot call in. But I did have the possibility of having visitors and I had most of the things I need. Most of the staff in there where very friendly and most of us in the prison understand that they have nothing to do with our cases, they are just guards. But some among them are very wicked and inconsiderate and treated us like a piece of rag.
The policeman handling my case told me that they would deport me back home because people from my country have never been given permission to stay here in Denmark. But I told him that every case is different, like our fingers, I had to have some hope. At last I was let out of Ellebæk and moved to an asylum centre. It was hard to think that I might not get protection in Denmark and the day I was let out, instead of being happy, I cried.
When I first arrived in Denmark, I had thought all my worries were over. I had hoped for a new life, but it turned out not to be. Being locked up for so long and being treated like I had committed a criminal offense, I decided it would be preferable to leave. The reason I had fled my country, Kenya, was because I was working as a personal secretary to a journalist who was killed by our
government and I was an eye witness to that. Mentally I was always having in mind that my days are numbered if I get sent home; I would also be killed. That is why when I got the opportunity to go to Senegal I grabbed it and left Denmark rather than risk being sent home.
Denmark is a nice place to be when one is legal and some of the people are OK, but others are – ughhh! But it is the worst country to seek asylum in especially for us from Africa.
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Ellebæk is a closed prison for people detained under the Aliens Act. It receives both male and female inmates from around the world, which is why Ellebæk is a different from the other Danish prisons. The inmates are basically asylum seekers and they are not located together with criminal prisoners.
The asylum seekers in Ellebæk are not locked in cells, but can freely move around within the prison. The staff have close contact with the inmates through various activities like sports, cooking, painting, etc. to counter the effects of being in detention. There is the possibility to receive visitors and to have telephone contact with relatives.
Vestre Fængsel (Vestre prison) is one of four prisons in the Copenhagen area. Here there are both men and women who are awaiting trial and serving their sentences.