Denmark continues to authorize entry to Syrian refugees, but at what cost?
The massive wave of Syrian refugees has sent governments across the globe into a tailspin over how to handle the crisis of the displacement of one country’s entire population.
Denmark, a small peninsula nestled between Europe and Scandinavia, has taken its stance on the issue and is allowing Syrian refugees seeking asylum into the country.
So why are the same refugees who escaped their war torn country now fleeing Denmark by the thousands and fervently discouraging others from arriving?
The stipulations and requirements for entry placed on immigrants are just too steep for some. Denmark has recently passed legislation authorizing its officials the right to seize valuables from refugees upon their entrance. Items such as mobile phones, laptop computers and jewelry, outside of wedding rings, are subject to confiscation upon entry and are considered a tax payment to the host country.
Additionally, it may be several years before immigrants separated from their families can see their relatives again. Denmark’s government has lengthened the time that refugees may apply for family reunification from one year to three.
The goal of these provisions isn’t to make money off of refugees’ few valuables, but to deter further immigrants from choosing to seek refuge in Denmark, and so far, it’s working. The right-wing Danish People’s Party, which rose to power this past June, is pushing for tighter regulations on immigration to retain its rich, European culture.
“We hope this will start a chain reaction through Europe where other European countries can see there’s the need to tighten the rules on immigration in order to keep European culture,” Danish People’s Party spokesman Martin Henriksen told CNN.
Many people, even native Danes, have criticized the legislation that is so out of character for the typically socially liberal government that is incredibly generous towards its people. It’s rapidly becoming clear that the same generosity may not apply to others.
Although many are quick to disapprove upon immediate knowledge of this new legislation, Denmark may be justified in its actions, if not for its motives.
Denmark has been a historically socially liberal country. Every Danish college student is guaranteed the opportunity for higher education for $900 a month. The country continues to make aggressive efforts to improve the state of the environment. Healthcare is free for all and welfare is subsidized by the state. Although tax rates are high, Denmark is considered a European utopia based on its kindness to its citizens.
Denmark takes care of every citizen, all 9.5 million of them. This population sits on a peninsula that is just 16,639 square miles in size, a whole country just over the size of Wisconsin. Before the bill was passed, Denmark’s liberal policies were initially a strong attractant for Syrian refugees. Free education and healthcare is an enormous draw to those who are escaping from a broken country. As a result, Denmark took in 170,000 immigrants last year alone before realizing that the faucet was not going to begin trickling anytime soon.
Danish officials believe that they are protecting their culture, but the bigger issue at hand is that their society in its entirety could be threatened by an increasing population. This problem is slowly becoming a reality and this realization had a large part of the decision when it came to immigration law. It has become clear that for a country of its size, it simply cannot allow many more immigrants within its borders for the safety and security of their society. Although Denmark is an incredibly rich and socially successful country, it will cease to be if it crumbles under the weight of the wave of refugees.
What does this mean for European migrants? Several countries are closing their borders and tightening immigration laws in an attempt to protect their own. Thousands of Syrians are hurrying to the Danish borders to escape to a place where their personal belongings are secure and the hope of family returning can become a reality.
For those most desperate to reach safety, those who have lost all of their belongings and family members, Denmark remains to be the safe haven that they need. The cost of safety may be a steep price due to the limited space in Europe. If a watch must be given up to acquire charity, some food and a roof, many will gladly let go of earthly belongings. It does not make Denmark the most empathetic entity, but it is allowing the last few refugees they have room for a chance at a better life nonetheless.
Part of the responsibility of relieving the pressure of the migration crisis falls to the other world powers, the United States included. American values are difficult to ignore when an entire country is drowning and its population displaced and in desperate need of humanitarian efforts. However, the latest immigration program has plans for just 10,000 to be filtered in, just a fraction of the hundreds of thousands taken in by Denmark, Sweden and Jordan. These countries have sadly exhausted their generosity, and it is time for a country with ample resources and space, almost 4 million square miles, to be exact, to pick of some of the slack.
The reasoning of Danish politicians is undoubtedly harsh, but it is an unmistakable fact that something had to be done to lower the heavy influx of survivors to ensure the survival of Danish society. The responsibility of saving the Syrian population simply cannot fall onto the shoulders of such a small country. However, would it have been less cruel to close borders completely, or is it a token of Denmark’s continued generosity that a trickle of incoming refugees remains?
Jacquelyn Kellar is a sophomore journalism major from Missouri City. She is a reporter for the Lariat.