The New Diversity in Denmark: Integration Challenges for Danes, Immigrants and Refugees
Forty years ago Denmark had very few residents of non-Nordic extraction, but since then a flood of immigrants, refugees and their family members have changed the social dynamic between "native" Danes and "outsiders." Seeking ways to cope with this challenge, Denmark has in the last ten years focused on how best to "integrate" its immigrants. A perusal of Danish research literature reveals that "integration" is an elusive and multi-faceted term; yet it is used in a specific manner by the Danish government. Its stance is that employment equals integration. Once an immigrant or refugee obtains a job, then that individual is "integrated." Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were held in the County of North Jutland with asylum-seekers, refugees, Danish language instructors, job counselors and volunteers to determine the extent to which the Danish government was succeeding with its policies. The focus on economic integration left many social issues unaddressed and even the limited government goal of "economic integration" is not being achieved. Given numerous barriers to the employment of immigrants, the interviewed refugees faced the choice of either remaining in their assigned municipality and continuing to receive social welfare benefits or moving away from the municipality in search of employment. Either choice meant a lack of economic assimilation in their assigned placement, essentially discrediting Danish policy. The paper concludes with possible alternate approaches to the integration of refugees and immigrants into Danish society.
Keywords: Denmark, Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Integration
Dr. Linda S. Fair
Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Binghamton University