Everyday Danish citizens are fighting back against their government's anti-refugee campaign.
When Denmark’s Minister of Integration, Inger Støjberg, took out advertisements last month in newspapers to deter refugees from seeking asylum in the country, many citizens were appalled.
As a response, three women used social media to fight the anti-refugee messages by creating a Facebook group called “Welcome Refugees – No to Støjberg’s Deterrence-Campaign.” They raised over 200,000 kroner (about $30,200 USD) in two weeks, according to The Local, which allowed them to run counter-advertisements in The Guardian and Germany’s Tageszeitung newspaper.
Welcome Refugees decided to fight fire with fire, and counter what they considered to be xenophobic messages with more welcoming ones. The advertisement tells potential refugees not to heed Denmark's scare tactics, with the above posting that states: "Dear fellow human being, there is another voice in Denmark - a voice representing peace, solidarity, and human decency," and promises that "we're not all like minister Støjberg."
The group’s founders Marianne Rosenkvist, Anne de Haas, and Mille Stockner describe themselves as “3 ordinary Danes” on their Facebook page, which they started in July, following Støjberg’s announcement of the anti-refugee campaign.
In August, Støjberg and the Danish Ministry for Immigration, Integration and Housing used four Lebanese newspapers and social media to announce, in both Arabic and English, that benefits were being drastically cut for asylum seekers in Denmark.
Støjberg wanted to use the ads as an unofficial information campaign to publicize the official changes that will affect refugees. The new policies are part of the anti-immigration platform by which Støjberg’s right-wing Venstre party recently came to power.
The government’s ads explain that Denmark’s assistance for asylum seekers has been reduced by up to 50 percent, that new refugees must speak and understand Danish, that they cannot immediately bring their family to Denmark, and that they cannot receive permanent residence permits for at least five years.
Welcome Refugees isn’t the only pro-refugee voice in Denmark, although it is one of the most prominent. In August, thousands gathered in Copenhagen to protest the government's policies. Last week, seven young Danes went to the Greek island of Lesbos to help receive refugees arriving via boat. And last month, the head of the Danish NGO called Refugees Welcome penned an op-ed in The Guardian, listing five reasons why asylum-seekers should come to Denmark.
For the time being, most migrants and refugees are just passing through Denmark en route to Sweden, so experts point out that the impact of both campaigns remains to be seen.
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