‘I wanted to develop my career’: How a masters degree prevented a midwife from becoming Danish

'I wanted to develop my career': How a masters degree prevented a midwife from becoming Danish
Katja Albert Taastrøm said the tightened retroactive citizenship laws offended her sense of justice. Photo: Katja Albert Taastrøm
When Katja Taastrøm started a Masters degree in Midwifery one and a half years ago, she had no idea this would add another five years, at least, to her long wait for Danish citizenship. Next week she'll meet Denmark's immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye online to ask him to change the law.

Under the much-criticised new citizenship law brought in last month, applicants have to have worked at least 30 hours a week for at least 3 years and 6 months of the last 4 years leading up to their application, and university studies do not count. 

Even though Taastrøm applied for citizenship in June 2020, the new law applies a full 13 months retroactively, back to April 2019. This means that even though her application met all the requirements at the time she sent it in, and continued to do so right up until May this year, from this May it no longer does. 

“I felt rejected, I felt I wasn’t a part of the community,” she told The Local of the moment she realised the implications of the new law. “I thought, ‘I need this passport, so I can vote. I want to have democratic rights in this country I’m living in. It was a roller-coaster of emotions.”

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Until she began her masters, the 45-year-old had worked full-time as a midwife in Denmark for more than 11 years, and she only decided to study further because she realised that there needed to be more midwives engaged in research. 

“The way I see it, all the research is very dominated by the doctors, so to keep birth as something normal as far as it is possible, we need to we need to be able to discuss with them on the same level, ” she explained. “We need to have the research competencies ourselves.”

It’s annoying that the citizenship rules no longer allow applicants to educate themselves further, and might mean that Taastrøm has to delay her plans to do post-graduate research when she finished her course next year.

But what enrages her the most is the retroactive application of the rules. 

“It’s my feeling of justice. It’s not OK that my application is affected by rules which didn’t exist when I made it,” she complained. “I’m really provoked by it, and especially for the young people, who have been living here all their life and tried to be a part of society, and now they have to get some work, instead of an education.”

When Taastrøm’s Danish husband saw her fuming about the changes, he advised her to go to the media, and she has since been interviewed by state broadcaster DR and many others. 

“My husband said if you want to have democratic rights, you can’t just sit on the sofa and be sad, you have to educate people about how stupid these rules are.

“Most Danes don’t know about it, and the politicians have only said that these rules are made to keep criminals out.”

Even so, she’s not certain her interviews with the media will do much to change Danish opinion. 

“I’m not very optimistic that this will change anything, but I tried,” she said. “It was a nice story, a German midwife, why won’t we include her? You know?” 

But she felt none of the reporters in the Danish media who interviewed her really conveyed the broader points she was making about how many other foreigners are being unfairly excluded from citizenship by the new restrictions.  

This is what she wants to hammer through to Mattias Tesfaye when she takes part in the virtual public meeting with him on June 17th.  

“I want to show that those who are affected of the new rules, almost all of them are citizens trying to be a part of Denmark, trying to work for it, and engaged. It’s not affecting those [the criminals], they are talking about. It’s affecting other people.” 

Apart from her own citizenship problems, and Danes’ increasingly hostile attitudes towards immigration, Taastrøm says that after 14 years in Denmark, she feels very integrated, and “quite Danish”. 

“I do. I will always also be German, but I feel very much a part of Danish society.” 

Even her friends back in Germany are now starting to pick on the worsening conditions for foreigners in Denmark, however. 

“You know when I moved to Denmark, my German friends, they said, “It’s a great country, open-minded. fantastic. And now they call and say, “shouldn’t you just move back, while you still have time? You know, it’s really bad.”


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