I was lucky to have the first post in Brussels and this time I have the first post in Copenhagen, our first trip with the program! Before I even started this program pretty much everyone I know told me Scandinavia was going to be my favorite place out of the whole trip, and so far it has lived up to what everyone had said. In a way it is how I expected it to be but at the same time it is not like anywhere I have been before.
On Sunday I had to get up around five to make sure I did not miss the bus that took me to the airport because I had to get there by 7:30, and the only bus that would get me there on time left from Schuman at 6:50. Lucy and I got to the metro station and were nervous when we saw that the next one was coming in twenty minutes. Fortunately, out of nowhere another one appeared and we managed to make it on time. Once we got to Copenhagen and saw that not all of our rooms were ready we decided to go for lunch. Dr. Birchfield found an amazing restaurant that served Danish specialties. To say it was amazing is an understatement, we ate for hours, our lunch consisted of two courses. The first one consisted more of fish and the second one consisted more of meat. I still don’t know what part was my favorite because everything was delicious. After our huge meal, we all needed a nap, but then we decided to go out and explore. Part of the group and I decided to walk around without looking a specific place to go first. We wandered around a lot and eventually ended up close to the river were we decided to hang out for a while, then we got diner and called it a day.
Our first site visit in Copenhagen was to the Danish Refugee Council, and in my opinion it was one of the most comprehensive and informative briefings we’ve had. The speaker explained what was happening with the migration crisis, gave her perspective, the Danish perspective and sometimes she even included a Copenhagen perspective which is different than the Danish in some situations. She explained how the migration crisis was a political problem, and began explaining how it all began in 1956 with Hungary. Then, she told us that the Danish Refugee Council is present in Africa, Middle East, and a little in Central Africa. Their newest camp is in Greece. They are legal advisors through every stage of asylum seeking. Some of the activities they do to integrate them in Danish society with volunteers that plan activities, help with the language and getting a job. The biggest groups that get asylum status in Denmark are Eritreans and Syrians because they have the strongest case for asylum right now.
One of the most interesting things she mentioned, which I feel people are not really aware of is that many of the people leaving these countries are well educated. Their children have been out of school for maybe two years and they leave having lost hope on themselves but still seeking a better future for their children.
The speaker shared a quote that helped explained her point for the need of a joint solution, “It seems we have left on war to enter another”. She explained that the resources are there but there is a lack of political will. She explained the different systems in place to help asylum seekers and how they have evolved in time and this really put into perspective how hard it is for people to get in especially when every country has a different idea of how they should be treated and also different amounts of resources available.
In Denmark the package they receive includes Danish language school, job and training if necessary, education, and a house in the municipality they are assigned. Finally, she concluded by explaining that the prevalent reason in Denmark to not want more immigrants is fear. Fear of the unknown or the different, like religion, because this can change the society they are used to; in other words there is a fear of integration because of the difference in culture, when in reality this should be seen as an asset.
After our briefing we went to the rooftop of the building we were in and had a good time taking pictures of the beautiful view. When we left the group split up for lunch and then met up again to have our second scheduled activity which was a lecture by Ian Manners. His lecture was extremely interesting and in two ours managed to talk about everything we have been talking about for the past month in an entertaining but still educational way. I really enjoyed that at the end he mentioned possible scenarios of how Europe would look depending on how strong or weak the Union is.
Finally, to end the day we watched two Euro Cup matches, first Sweden versus Ireland, which ended up as a tie; and then Brussels versus Italy, which ended as a victory for the Italians.