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22 Jan, 2016 16:13

Integration failure? Denmark wants to take refugees from cities, dump them into special camps

Integration failure? Denmark wants to take refugees from cities, dump them into special camps

Danish MPs have forced the government into looking at ways of resettling refugees in camps outside cities. The move comes as lawmakers finalize a bill aimed at confiscating refugees’ cash and belongings with a combined value of over $1,450.

The resolution, passed in the Danish parliament on Thursday, binds the government to come up with a plan to build state-backed villages outside of cities by March, according to Reuters.

At the moment, the majority of refugee families live in cities, but a number of tent camps have already been erected for single male migrants.

Migrants already living in such camps have voiced concerns that the new proposal – aimed at relieving the pressure on cities and towns that are running out of accommodation capacity – may in the end create ghettos.

“We come from a land of death and destruction. During our trip to Europe, we buried our friends in the Sahara sand and watched them drown in the Mediterranean. We just want peace, a good life and to be a part of the Danes,” Abrahim Tekle, 28, from Eritrea, told Ekstra Bladet daily.

“Isolating us in refugee villages, with no proper contact with Danes, poor opportunities to learn Danish and get a job, will have major consequences,” his friend Fitwi also told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Denmark is a step closer to implementing a widely-discussed proposal to strip refugees of cash and other valuables exceeding 10, 000 kroner ($1,450) - with the exception of items of ‘sentimental value’ such as wedding rings. On Thursday, Danish deputies went through the final reading of the draft without making any amendments. The bill is expected to be approved on January 26.

"The international community must call Denmark out as it enters a race to the bottom. Denmark was one of the first champions of the Refugee Convention, but its government is now brazenly creating blocks to the well-being and safety of refugee families, “ Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, told Reuters, commenting on the proposed legislature.

In addition, Denmark plans to make refugees wait longer until they are able to reunite with family members left in war-torn countries by increasing the waiting period from one to three years.

Some Danish nightspots have introduced ‘language controls’ requiring visitors to prove they can speak Danish, German or English to be let in, following complaints from women of harassment.

Following the controversy created by Danish MPs’ latest decisions, the European Parliament demanded that Copenhagen explain the pending ‘reforms’ before the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee.

On Thursday, the country’s foreign minister, Kristian Jensen, appeared before the UN Human Rights Council to defend the immigration policy in the first review of Denmark’s human rights situation since 2011. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) also strongly criticized the bill, saying it “could fuel fear (and) xenophobia” and result in violations of international law.

Despite the increasing international irritation with Denmark’s plans, Inger Stojberg, the country’s integration minister, has repeatedly stated that “Denmark's immigration policy is decided in Denmark, not in Brussels.”

According to a poll, 37 percent of Danes oppose the idea of taking any more refugees – an almost twofold increase since September. Last year Denmark took a record 20,000 asylum seekers, a number still nearly ten times fewer than Sweden.