More foreigners go to Danish language classes after fees scrapped

The number of people learning Danish at public language centres significantly increased after a mandatory course fee was scrapped last summer.

The end of module fees at Danish language centres has led to an increase in people taking lessons.
The end of module fees at Danish language centres has led to an increase in people taking lessons. Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

Cours participants who would have been required to pay fees to attend Danish language lessons under old rules numbered 10,499 in early 2020, before the charge was scrapped.

In the second quarter of this year that number had risen to 18,707, the Ministry for Immigration and Integration said in a statement on Wednesday.

The course fee, revoked on July 1st last year, applied to foreigners termed self-sufficient or selvforsørgende, encompassing people in Denmark for work and study purposes.

The fee was scrapped following an agreement between the government and left wing parties.

Danish lessons at state-owned language centres are offered to foreign nationals who have recently moved to Denmark and reside legally in the country. Refugees as well as people who move to Denmark to because of offers of work or study learn Danish at the schools.

“I’m pleased that more foreigners are choosing to go to Danish language classes. It is key for successful integration that foreigners in Denmark learn Danish,” immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said in the statement.

“That gives them a better chance to talk to colleagues, neighbours and their daughter’s coach at the local football club – in short, it makes it easier to become part of the community,” he continued.

“At the same time, employers gain more from foreign workers when they speak the language”, Tesfaye also said.

The fee for language lessons was introduced by the previous government on July 1st 2018, meaning people who attended Danish classes had to pay 2,000 kroner every time they began one of the six modules into which the full course of language study is divided.

Danish lessons had been free prior to 2018.

Introducing course fees “probably, to varying degrees, had an effect on the drop in course participants from 2018 to 2019,” the ministry said.

Course registrations in 2020 and 2021 were also impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it noted, citing closures during lockdown periods and the effect of the pandemic on immigration in general.

READ ALSO: Are Danish language lessons worth 12,000 kroner? Here’s what The Local readers think (2018)

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Danish authorities criticised for use of physical force on asylum seeker

A video has spread on social media appearing to show hard use of physical force by Danish authorities during the deportation of a woman whose asylum claims were rejected.

Danish authorities criticised for use of physical force on asylum seeker

Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye has been summoned to a parliamentary committee, at which lawmakers from other parties can demand the minister respond to the incident, broadcaster DR reports.

The video was shared by Trampoline House, a Danish independent citizens’ resource NGO for asylum seekers and refugees. The organisation wrote on social media that the woman, a mother of three, was injected with a tranquiliser during the attempted deportation.

In the video, which was taken at the Avnstrup asylum centre, four people can be seen holding the woman to the ground, with her head held against the paving stones. She is visibly shaking in the footage. A man in civilian clothing then brings restraints which are used to tie her.

The Danish Return Agency (Hjemrejsestyrelsen), the agency responsible for processing deportations, and the North Zealand police told news wire Ritzau that medicine had not been administered to the woman, however. They confirmed that physical restraint was used.

The woman, an Iranian national, was to be deported from Denmark with her two oldest children while her youngest child, who is one year old, remains in Denmark with its father, according to Trampoline House, which also wrote on social media that splitting the family represents a breach of the ECHR’s right to family life.

She is also reported to hold an expired Iranian passport.

“I can’t bear to think of the fate that awaits the Kurdish woman who was yesterday forcibly deported. I have called Tesfaye in to consultation so he can explain if this is really how we treat people if it’s up to the government,” Sikandar Siddique of the Independent Green party wrote on Twitter.

Rosa Lund of the Red Green Alliance said in comments to newspaper Politiken she was unaware Denmark was able to forcibly deport rejected asylum seekers to Iran because this would require a repatriation agreement with Iran, which Denmark does not have.

The Ministry of Immigration and Integration told the newspaper that this is in fact possible for persons who have an Iranian travel document, regardless of whether the document is valid.

“This forced deportation testifies to a complete failure of the Danish asylum policy. Both ethically and practically,” Trampoline House told The Local in a written comment.

The organisation called for more humane treatment of vulnerable asylum seekers and argued that this would in fact benefit the established policy of deporting persons whose claims for asylum are not granted.

“In Denmark we take away people’s basic rights and confine them into isolated camps. In the Netherlands the rejected are allowed to work, study and enjoy a much more normal life, until departure date,” it added, noting that in 2017, 4.4 percent of rejected asylum seekers left Denmark voluntarily, while the Netherlands recorded a proportion of 44 percent.

READ ALSO: Inside Denmark’s Kærshovedgård deportation camp

According to broadcaster TV2, the Danish Return Agency has confirmed that the woman left Denmark on a flight following the episode captured in the video, but has now returned to the country after sustaining an injury during the journey. 

Danish law allows the use of physical force in deportations if necessary when a person without legal residence status in Denmark does not comply voluntarily with their deportation travel.

According to the country’s Aliens Act (Ulændingeloven), such enforced deportation must be “with respect for the individual and without unnecessary use of force”.

Police are responsible for carrying out deportations based on the decisions made by immigration authorities.

“If people don’t leave voluntarily, they can be deported forcibly. As long as you stick to restraint and don’t turn to violence, it’s within the framework [legally, ed.],” Niels Henrik Christensen, a lawyer specialised in asylum, refugee and immigration law, told TV2.

“Force is used and (authorities) have that right. Nothing in the video surprises me. I’m not saying that to defend it, but that is allowed,” he said.