Danes donate record amount to Red Cross

With 8,000 more people volunteering to go door-to-door, the Red Cross collected a record amount of money to help the world's neediest people.

Danes donate record amount to Red Cross
The head of the Red Cross said he was certain that the attention on the current refugee crisis contributed to the record collection. Photo: Aris Messinis/Scanpix
If you were in Denmark on Sunday, odds are someone came knocking on your door to collect for the Red Cross. And in all likelihood, you threw a few coins in the collection bucket. 
The Red Cross of Denmark said that a record 25.5 million kroner ($3.8 million) was collected in Sunday’s canvassing campaign, five million more than last year and more eight million more than in 2013. 
“We are both proud and humbled that Danes have chosen to give so much money to our aid work. We had around 8,000 more collectors this year than last and all of them have made a huge difference for us,” Red Cross General Secretary Anders Ladekarl said in a press release. 
Ladekarl said that the money would go toward ensuring that the Red Cross has available funds to help with future catastrophes as well as strengthening the group’s work to help the refugees of Syria’s long-raging civil war. 
“I do not doubt that the strong focus there has been on the tragic conditions in and around Syria and the refugee influx that we are witnessing were major contributors to the many volunteers and fine result,” he said. 
The Red Cross added that although refugees of the Syrian civil war may dominate the media picture, there is still urgent need for help in other places. The group will use seven million kroner of the money raised on Sunday in Syria and two million to aid refugees within Europe. Another four million will be distributed to the group’s work in Ukraine, Yemen, Myanmar and Liberia. 
The record private contributions to the Red Cross came just days after the Venstre government proposed drastically cutting funds to aid organizations in next year’s budget. Ladekarl slammed those cuts as a “bloodbath” and accused the government of being “all talk” when it repeatedly said that it would rather help more people abroad than accept refugees into Denmark.
Just two weeks before Danes coughed up 25 million kroner to the Red Cross, they donated 86 million kroner to Syria via a joint fundraiser aired on the nation’s two dominant broadcasters. 


‘I can’t go back’: Syrian refugees in Denmark face limbo after status revoked

Bilal Alkale's family is among the hundred or so Syrian refugees in Denmark whose lives are on hold amid an insufferable legal limbo -- their temporary residency permits have been revoked but they can't be deported. Now, they have no rights.

Syrian refugee Bilal Alkale and his daughter Rawan at their home in Lundby, Denmark on November 17th 2021. 
Syrian refugee Bilal Alkale and his daughter Rawan at their home in Lundby, Denmark on November 17th 2021. Photo: Thibault Savary / AFP

Alkale, who until recently ran his own small transportation company in Denmark, found out in March he wasn’t allowed to stay in the Scandinavian country where he has lived as a refugee since 2014, as Copenhagen now considers it safe for Syrians to return to Damascus.

His wife and three of his four children were also affected by the decision taken by Danish authorities.

Once the ruling was confirmed on appeal in late September — like 40 percent of some 200 other cases examined so far — Alkale and his family were ordered to leave.

READ ALSO: Danish refugee board overturns decisions to send home Syrians

They were told that if they didn’t go voluntarily, they would be placed in a detention centre.

The family has refused to leave.

Normally they would have been deported by now, but since Copenhagen has no diplomatic relations with Damascus, they can’t be. And so they wait.

Days and weeks go by without any news from the authorities.

In the meantime, the family has been stripped of their rights in Denmark.

Alkale can’t sleep, his eyes riveted on his phone as he keeps checking his messages.

“What will become of me now?” the 51-year-old asks.

“Everything is off. The kids aren’t going to school, and I don’t have work,” he says, the despair visible on his weary face as he sits in the living room of the home he refurbished himself in the small village of Lundby, an hour-and-a-half’s drive south of Copenhagen.

“All this so people will get annoyed enough to leave Denmark.”

For him, returning to Syria means certain death.  

“I can’t go back, I’m wanted,” he tells AFP.

And yet, he has no way to earn a living here.

“As a foreigner staying illegally in Denmark, your rights are very limited,” notes his lawyer Niels-Erik Hansen, who has applied for new residency permits for the family.

In mid-2020, Denmark became the first European Union country to re-examine the cases of about 500 Syrians from Damascus, which is under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, saying “the current situation in Damascus is no longer such as to justify a residence permit or the extension of a residence permit”. 

The decision was later widened to include the neighbouring region of Rif Dimashq.

Despite a wave of Danish and international criticism, the Social Democratic government — which has pursued one of Europe’s toughest immigration policies — has refused to budge.


The Alkale family is considering leaving for another European country, even though they risk being sent back to Denmark. 

Alkale’s oldest child was already over the age of 18 when they arrived in Denmark and therefore has her own residency permit, currently under review.

Of the three other children, only the youngest, 10-year-old Rawan, still has the carefree ways of a child.

Majed, 14, says he’s “bummed”, while Said, 17, who was studying to prepare for professional chef school, says he now has no idea what his future holds.

Only a handful of Syrians have so far been placed in detention centres, regularly criticised for poor sanitary conditions.

Asmaa al-Natour and her husband Omar are among the few.

They live in the Sjælsmark camp, a former army barracks surrounded by barbed wire and run by the prisons system since late October.

“This centre should disappear, it’s not good for humans, or even for animals. There are even rats,” says al-Natour.


 The couple, who have two sons aged 21 and 25, arrived in Denmark in 2014.

“My husband and I opened a shop selling Arabic products, it was going well. Then I decided to resume my studies, but now everything has just stopped,” says al-Natour, who “just wants to get (her) life back.” 

“Going back to Syria means going to prison, or even death, since we’re opposed to Bashar al-Assad. He’s a criminal.”

Niels-Erik Hansen, who also represents this couple, says his clients are being “held hostage by the Danish authorities.”

The government is trying “to spread the message that ‘in Denmark, we almost deport to Syria’,” he says.

Amnesty International recently criticised Syrian security forces’ use of violence against dozens of refugees who returned home.

Danish authorities meanwhile insist it’s safe for Syrians to go back.

“If you aren’t personally persecuted … there haven’t been acts of war in Damascus for several years now. And that is why it is possible for some to go back,” the government’s spokesman for migration, Rasmus Stoklund, tells AFP.

Some 35,500 Syrians currently live in Denmark, more than half of whom arrived in 2015, according to official statistics.