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IMMIGRATION

Refugees with jobs miss Danish lessons: language schools

Levels of absence from Danish language lessons have increased amongst refugees and people granted family reunification status in Denmark.

Refugees with jobs miss Danish lessons: language schools
A 2014 file photo showing asylum seekers attending a language class at Vrå Højskole. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

In 2014, the absence rate from the language lessons was 24.8 percent nationwide. The most recent figures from the Ministry for Economic Affairs and the Interior show that in 2017, that figure had increased to 36.4 percent, DR P4 København reports.

One municipality with a particularly low attendance record is Lejre, with 44.6 percent of lessons missed, over eight percent higher than the national average.

Lejre Municipality has been successful in bringing refugees on to the labour market, resulting in many taking language lessons in the evenings, Carsten Madsen, director of NSI, the language and immigration centre in the town, told DR.

“That has an impact on how many people are present at lessons,” Madsen said.

Carsten Rasmussen, who is mayor in the central Zealand town, agreed with Madsen’s comments.

“It is naturally challenging for refugees to both fulfil full-time employment and then come home again before going out to language lessons in the evening,” Rasmussen told Ritzau.

Once refugees and family members granted residency under family unification rules are in employment, municipalities are no longer able to sanction them for not attending language lessons.

The municipality is therefore trying Saturday lessons to encourage attendance.

“That way you’re not working all day before you have to go,” Rasmussen said.

The figures do not show the distribution in low attendance between people who are working and not working, however.

“It would have been relevant to be able to split (the figures) and see where the problem is,” Rasmussen said.

At Sprogcenter Norsjælland, a language centre used by ten municipalities in northern Zealand, Hanne Lohmann, the centre’s director, recognised the effects of increased focus from municipalities on getting refugees into jobs.

But there may be other reasons for many refugees not fully focusing on lessons, Lohmann said.

“There are many things they have to do and maybe they also have a lot of other things on their minds,” Lohmann told DR P4.

Politicians criticised low language lesson attendance.

“I think this is very concerning because it has increased very quickly. I think action should be taken,” Conservative party spokesperson for immigration and integration Naser Khader said.

Mattias Tesfaye, spokesperson for immigration issues with the Social Democrats, said that in cases where were municipalities were able to punish non-attendance financially due to refugees no longer being reliant on social welfare, the benefits of learning Danish must be made clear.

“To be granted permanent residency, to be granted citizenship and to gain many different rights, a certain level of Danish proficiency must be achieved, so the argument for learning Danish is very strong,” Tesfaye told DR P4.

READ ALSO: The end of free language classes will push foreign professionals out of Denmark: DI

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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