Will Asylum Seekers Live Outside the Centres?
Johanne Schmidt Nielsen is a young powerful Danish politician and the political Spokesperson for the party Enhedslisten (Red Green Alliance), which is a supporting party for the government coalition. Journalist Zack Khadudu spoke to her aboutthe proposal for asylum seekers to be allowed to live and work outside the asylum centres.
ZK: This government is already being considered a government of broken promises by some. For example, they promised asylum seekers in general would be allowed to live and work outside the centres now it seems it will only be some asylum seekers, any comment?
Johanne: Well, right now they are saying we have to get an agreement on how to get the asylum seekers out of the camps. But for us, as a party, it is important that we get a deadline, and now we got a deadline of Summer 2012. I know it is a long time and I am not satisfied until the day the asylum seekers move out of the camps.
ZK: So will all asylum seekers be allowed to live outside the camps and work, or just a few?
Johannes: There is a lot of argument on who is going to get out of the camps. I believe every asylum seeker should be allowed to get out of the camp, even the one who is not granted asylum but cannot be sent back. We are going to negotiate about who should be allowed to move out of the camps and how much should they cooperate with the police. And I think that is going to be a really tough negotiation.
ZK: But the proposal of the government was that only people who cooperate with the police will be allowed to move out, is that the case?
Johanne: I think it is important to tell asylum seekers that they should go to the meetings with the police or with the immigration, but I do not think you can demand from people that they should go back. When people come to Denmark, it is because they believe that they are in danger, if they do not get asylum they have to go back. But you cannot demand that they should sign a paper saying I want to go voluntarily.
ZK: So what timeline are we looking at, that asylum seekers are expected to move out?
Johanne: The thing is the law should be ready by the Summer of 2012. I think it is a long time, but the reason the government believes that it takes some time, is that it has to find out the place people should live and that is not so easy, should they have the yellow card and should they have the right to go to all kinds of education, so there are legal things that have to be put in place.
ZK: Education is a universal right, at least basic education, but asylum seekers who come into Denmark are not allowed to take up education apart from just a few language classes what is your comment?
Johanne: The asylum system should build people and give them more strengh and more power, but instead the Danish system is trying to break people down when they are in the camps, and of course people should have the right to education no matter if they are going to stay or to go back.
ZK: These sound like just promises, perhaps too good to be true.
Johanne: It is not promises, I cannot promise anything because we, the Red-Green Alliance, do not have the majority in parliament. The only promise I can give is that I will do everything to push the government. I can't promise anything, because right now I only have 4% of the vote, if I had 50% of the vote I could do anything I wanted.
ZK: If there was one thing to change about the asylum system in Denmark what would it be?
Johanne: I think a lot of things should change, starting with people moving out of the camps after just a short term. I think it is important to get the rights to medication and education. Also, trying to make people leave by cutting down their pocket money and forcing them to report to the police, I think this doesn't work, it should be removed. In fact, there is a law in denmark right now that after 18 months if you cannot be send out, you should be given a short term resident permit but it is not used. Like last year 2010, only one person was granted this. We want to make that rule work, it is not used in a good way.
Disclaimer: This interview was conducted when negotiations on this issue were still going on. The resolutions are not yet reached at and not in the public domain, but we are keenly following and observing the agreements and will keep you updated on this site and in our January print publication of New Times.