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


Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.


Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.