Just as the first wave of refugees began arriving in Denmark from Austria and Germany over the weekend, the Danish government has kicked off an advertising campaign meant to keep them away.
Shortly after the government announced in July that it would significantly cut benefits to asylum seekers, Integration Minister Inger Støjberg said that she would make sure that asylum seekers and human smugglers were directly informed of the policy change through advertising and social media campaigns.
On Monday, the first adverts from the Danish government were published in four Lebanese newspapers.
An English-language version, published in Lebanon's The Daily Star, informs readers that “Denmark has decided to tighten the regulations concerning refugees in a number of areas.”
See the English ad in full here:
Støjberg’s ‘scare campaign’ has been highly controversial, even leading to criticism from within her own Venstre party. On Monday, Venstre MEP Jens Rohde accused his party cohort of making a political show for the gallery.
“One wishes that our minister – before she sets a bunch of things in action and appears on TV thumping her chest about how strong she is – would do some field studies so she could actually see what the conditions are like in Syria, Libya, Greece and the refugee camps,” he told Jyllands-Posten.
Migration experts have also cast doubt on the effectiveness of the ads, which cost the Ministry for Immigration, Integration and Housing some 252,000 kroner ($37,650).
“As the refugee pressure looks in Europe right now, I don't think one will redirect many by giving out this kind of information,” Ninna Nyberg Sørensen, a migration researchers at the Danish Institute for International Studies, told Jyllands-Posten.
Støjberg took to Facebook to defend the ads.
“Today I have, as promised, published advertisements in four Lebanese newspapers informing about the changed conditions for people who apply for asylum in Denmark,” she wrote.
She said the text would also be placed in asylum centres in Denmark in ten different languages and spread on social media.
“The aim is to inform objectively and soberly about [Danish rules], which the government is in the process of tightening,” she added. “In light of the huge influx to Europe these days, there is good reason for us to tighten rules and get that effectively communicated.”
Her Facebook post garnered over 5,000 likes, though some left critical comments.
“You should be ashamed,” wrote user Dorthe Agertoug from the southeastern town of Køge.
“One of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes in recent times and our government's answer is to publish advertisements. It's a parody,” added Vivi Ravnskjaer Terp in the southwestern town of Vojens.
A spokeswoman for Denmark's integration ministry denied a report that five major newspapers in Turkey had refused to carry the adverts.
A privately-funded campaign purchased advertisements in the UK paper The Guardian and a Germany newspaper last month to counter the government’s own ads. Those ads told refugees that “we welcome you to Denmark” and accused Støjberg of acting on “the ill-conceived and erroneous logic that families calculate where they may profit the most from settling as refugees”.
The government’s campaign has been published in ten different languages on DIS’s website and according to Jyllands-Posten, flyers in all ten languages have also been posted in asylum centres across Denmark. The Arabic text is also reportedly being circulated widely through social media.