Denmark announces extension of refugee apprenticeship programme

The government and private sector representatives have agreed the extension of a scheme in which refugees are provided short-term jobs and training at apprentice salary levels.

Denmark announces extension of refugee apprenticeship programme
Unrelated file photo. Christian Als/Ritzau Scanpix

The IGU (integrationsgrunduddannelse) scheme, which was introduced in 2016, aims to help refugees to access the Danish labour market.

People on the scheme are paid a salary of 50 to 120 kroner (€6.70 to €16) an hour for up to two years. The refugees also take part in skill development or education courses of up to 20 weeks.

Refugees and people with residency via family reunification, who are between the ages of 18 and 40 and have lived in Denmark for less than five years are eligible.

The scheme has previously been criticised by the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party and also arguably conflicts with the so-called ‘paradigm shift’ bill, voted through by parliament last week, which reflects a government change in policy on asylum.

A key aspect of the recent bill is its shift in focus from integration to future repatriation in Denmark’s approach to those who are granted refuge in the country.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s parliament passes 'paradigm change' asylum bill

Nevertheless, the IGU scheme, which has seen 1,860 agreements reached between employers and refugees since its inception, has now been extended until June 2022, the Ministry for Immigration and Integration announced via a press release on Monday.

The agreement was reached between the government and trade organisations including union representative Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation (FH), the Confederation of Danish Employers (Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening, DA) and Local Government Denmark (Kommunernes Landsforening, KL).

Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg has previously spoken in support of the IGU programme.

“Even though many more newly-arrived refugees have entered employment since the tripartite agreement in 2016, many refugees remain outside of the jobs market. I am therefore pleased that we have, today, reached a very good agreement with labour market representatives to extend the IGU, which is a stepping stone to the jobs market for many,” Støjberg said in the press statement.

“The scheme is a very good resource, which helps to make more refugees self-sufficient so that they can contribute to society on equal terms with everyone else for as long as they are here,” the minister added.

Labour market organisations also praised the scheme in comments included in the ministry press release.

“The IGU is, for many refugees and families, the first step towards being on the labour market under normal conditions – exactly as we hoped. Furthermore, I am pleased to see extra resources provided for better Danish language lessons and for the extension of the IGU period in instances of parental leave or illness,” FH chairperson Lizette Risgaard said.

The scheme is aimed at refugees and others granted residency under Danish family reunification rules who are not yet considered to be ready for employment under normal wage and employment regulations, the ministry writes in the press statement.

It had been due to expire this year after being approved for a three-year trial period in 2016.

READ ALSO: Refugee apprentice scheme a success, Danish immigration minister says

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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.