Danish mayors call for closure of asylum ‘departure centres’

Danish mayors call for closure of asylum 'departure centres'
'Close Kærshovedgård' stickers inside a room at the Jutland facility. Photo: Farah Bahgat
Mayors in the municipalities in which Denmark’s 'expulsion centres' for rejected asylum seekers are located have added their voices to those calling for the facilities to be shut down.

Ib Lauritsen, mayor in Ikast-Brande, and Morten Slotved of Hørsholm have both said that they would like to see asylum facilities in their jurisdictions closed.

The facilities in question are Denmark’s two so-called udrejsecenters (departure or expulsion centres), which house rejected asylum seekers who have not yet left Danish territory, for example due to being stateless or because no readmission arrangement exists between Denmark and their home country.

Expulsion centres are located at Kærshovedgård and Sjælsmark, within the Ikast-Brande and Hørsholm municipalities respectively.

Lauritsen told newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad that he would like the Kærshovedgård facility to close.

“If I am to be honest, we never wanted the centre. So if it was announced that the centre was to close, we would welcome that. I would actually prefer the centre not to be there,” Lauritsen told the newspaper.

The Local has previously reported on the conditions at Kærshovedgård and has visited the facility to speak to people accommodated there.

Lauritsen said that the primary reason for his stance was the negative feeling towards the centre in Bording, the nearest town, and amongst others that live close to Kærshovedgård.

Some residents have put up fences and others have expressed concerns about having asylum seekers accommodated in the area, he said.

“I understand people that feel sorry for them and want to help. But I also understand neighbours who don’t want them there. It’s not a black-and-white situation. It’s complex, and it’s difficult to accommodate everyone in a small community,” Lauritsen, who represents the Liberal (Venstre) party – that of Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and immigration minister Inger Støjberg – told Kristeligt Dagblad.

READ ALSO: The middle of nowhere: Inside Denmark's Kærshovedgård deportation camp

Slotved, the Conservative mayor in Hørsholm, cited security issues in his calls for the Sjælsmark centre to be closed.

Internal conflicts and situation involving a hostage inside the facility are amongst those causing concern for residents, according to Kristeligt Dagblad's report.

“This is a big issue for us and it is more than our local community can cope with. So we are campaigning hard for it to be closed,” Slotved told the newspaper.

READ ALSO: Danish immigration minister escorted from deportation centre as tensions boil over

The reported concerns of local residents fit with a recognisable trend, according to Jens Peter Frølund Thomsen, a researcher at Aarhus University.

“When you have an asylum centre nearby, the problems just become more real,” Thomsen said to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Similar responses of small local communities to an influx of asylum seekers have been observed in other European countries including Greece and Italy, he said.

“What is interesting is that capital cities find it easier to accept the problems that can arise with other cultures and subcultures, while smaller local communities react quite negatively,” the researcher continued.

Pia Heike Johansen, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark and researcher into urban-rural relations and immigration, said that the injection of new residents to a local community is often an economic boon, but that context was important.

“(Immigration) brings more children to schools, more members in local societies and more customers to local shops,” Johansen said to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Problems arise when asylum seekers or foreign workers are introduced to a local community on a short-term basis, she added.

“There is simply lower tolerance if the foreigners do not stay there. Networks and relationships are not developed. If people are only there for six months and then move on, or are at a departure centre for an unspecified period, the tolerance threshold is completely different,” Johansen said.