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A magazine produced by asylum seekers and immigrants in Denmark > May 2012 > issue # 82




The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – Article 12 Everyone has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health

Published by: The Danish Red Cross Asylum Department Editorial Office: New Times Røde Kors Huset H.C. Ørstedsvej 47 1879 Frederiksberg C Email: Tel. +45 2334 5887

Editor: Elias Ben Hamadou

EDITORIAL The theme for the present issue of New Times is health, because it is a common concern, both for all the people involved with the magazine, for asylum seekers in general and for the broader public. Also, there are health issues that are specific to the asylum centres and to asylum seekers, which we have sought to shed a light on here. The New Times team has investigated some of the con-

ditions and challenges these people face as well as the treatment in the Asylum Centres. We also describe how the Red Cross caters for specific groups, e.g. women and people living underground. Meanwhile, our main focus remains on what can be done to maintain or improve one’s health, e.g. by exercising. It took time, but we did manage to find specific sports clubs

for some of the journalists, so they could take up their favourite sport again, during the asylum limbo. This is important, because it shows that it is possible with a little effort and it makes a huge difference to there people, since the opportunities to practice sports in the centres are limited, especially in the winter. We hope you will enjoy this issue of new Times, and please

New Times Journalists: Zach, Abdallah, Rohit, Hasi, Dady de Maximo, Mayele, Maryanne, Franjo, Jean-Claude, Dianah, Diane, Payenda, Tania, Jimmy, Shoja

Printed by: OTM Avistryk

ists and anyone interested in asylum matters is welcome to send an inquiry. To book the group for lectures, presentations and discussions contact

New Times illustrators: Jimmy, Shoja New Times fotographer/cameraman: Sameer, Tania Volunteers: Kristina, Sophie, Patricia Layout: Jens Burau,

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Distributed free of charge to: Asylum centres, Ministries, Members of the Danish Parliament, public libraries, asylum and human rights organizations, NGOs, media and individuals in Denmark and abroad. Subscription: If you would like to subscribe to New Times and receive it by post, please send an email to Subscriptions are free. ASIG: ASIG (Asylum Seekers Information Group) answers questions about asylum and life as a refugee. Individuals, teachers, students, journal-

Support: We are a Danish Red Cross Asylum Department project and are supported by the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. We cooperate with the Danish Refugee Council and Amnesty International. Note: Some of the journalists use their real names, but some use pseudonyms because they do not want their whereabouts known by people in their home countries.

remember to follow us on the webpage www.newtimes. dk where articles are being uploaded on a regular basis. We also encourage you to make comments and debate the issues that come up. Elias Ben-Hamadou Editor


❚❚By Zach The first quarter of 2012 is finally gone. As expected, immigration was among the debates prioritised in the Danish media and the political arena. Asylum seekers still have their optimistic eyes set on Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt’s government to deliver what she promised at the election. Meanwhile the debates go on across the political divide. In late 2011, a task force was set up to look into the possibilities of allowing asylum seekers to live outside the centres and to work. That task force has another two months to report their findings. In the meantime, proponents of these changes continue to cross their fingers.


In March, the national broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) reported that the Danish National Police figures from 2011 show an increased number of rejected asylum seekers who face deportation. According to the report, a total of 815 asylum seekers faced deportation at the start of 2011, while the figure increased to 980 by the end of the year. DR reported that Minister of Justice Morten Bødskov has appointed a special task force to encourage rejected asylum seekers to voluntarily return home or face repatriation.


2012 began on the right foot for some refugees. In the last three months a substantial number of Somali refugees have been smiling their way to the Kommuner (Danish municipalities). The future looks bright thanks to the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in favour of Sufi and Elmi versus the United Kingdom (UK). They were denied asylum and were to be deported, but their lawyers took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in France.

The Court ruled that repatriation to Mogadishu, Alshabab controlled regions, Afgooye corridor and Dadaad refugee camp in Kenya is a violation of article 3 of the Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. This ruling together with the call by the World Leaders Summit in London in February 2012 for Western governments to help Somalia, is viewed as a contributing factor to the increased recognition of Somali refugees in Europe. “Unless Somalia is helped”, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “global terrorism would be hard to combat”. Following the ECHR’s ruling, the Danish Refugee Board remitted to the Immigration Service to process all applications from Somali citizens in the first instance, if asylum had been denied or if the applicant faced deportation. The Immigration Service immediately announced that the Somali asylum seekers whose applications had been rejected and who wished for their cases to be re-opened should contact them.

The Immigration Service set the expected completion for end of March 2012.


Politiken reported that while the number of asylum seekers in Europe has increased by 19 percent in 2011, the number of asylum seekers coming to Denmark was reduced by 23 percent compared with 2010. But why do most rejected asylum seekers opt not to return home voluntarily? We put this question to asylum seekers. Some told us, the reason they are here seeking asylum is because they have well founded fears of torture or death in their home countries. That is why they cannot voluntarily return home. Others said they would willingly return with just a little help, since “having spent a long time as asylum seekers in Denmark, it is difficult to go back and start rebuilding your life”, they said. Refugees who have a residence permit in Denmark and who willingly return home are offered 123,290 DKK to start a

new life in their home countries. Some rejected asylum seekers who can not be sent home told New Times that they would consider settling in a neighbouring country countries closer to their homes if they received similar help to rebuild their broken lives.


While nothing much has changed for asylum seekers since the new government came to power, campaigns by asylum support groups are warming up. The Trampoline House, a culture house where Danish citizens and asylum seekers meet and interact, has arranged a series of activities to put pressure on the government to deliver on its promises. As we move into the second quarter of the year, hopes remain high among asylum seekers and their supporters for better living conditions and better asylum policies.

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HEALTH FACILITIES IN CENTRE EBELTOFT Heaven helps those who help themselves. Be clean and keep your surroundings clean and you won’t get ill. ❚❚By Mayele The saying heaven helps those who help themselves applies very well to people living in public institutions such as asylum centers. Serious health problems may arise as a result of negligence with regards to hygiene in the communal spaces such as kitchens, refectories and bathing facilities. Needless to mention that it is also of paramount importance to have a sense of personal hygiene. This should be an “instinct of self-preservation” inherent to our human nature. However, my through my experiences in Sandholm and Auderød centres I was brought to live the contrary. It is very disturbing to notice that in most of the centres the inhabitants relegate health issues to their second or third priority. Most centres are big and accommodate hundreds of people from different backgrounds, with all the ensuing practical challenges in terms of health management. However, in Center Ebeltoft, the difference is striking. Center Ebeltoft is a small center and was only recently reopened. It stands out in terms of smooth health care services, partly because the center is not full yet, and because the Red Cross Staff join in and support the inhabitants of the center. On Wednesdays, a general cleaning session takes place, where every block is inspected by the Red Cross staff who join in the cleaning and explain the usage of cleaning tools, practicing what they preach. New Times talked to the nurses in the clinic. “The health staff are in control of the situation and so far they we have not encountered major problems”, said Karin Bowman. Her col-

league added: “however, due to the fact that most of people in the centre are waiting long periods of time during the processing of their cases, they subsequently become anxious and sometimes suffer from depression”.


Developing countries in Africa have long suffered from insufficient medical professionals. In some parts of Africa it is estimated that there are 50,000 inhabitants for each doctor. Doctors are scarce, but their services are also expensive. I remember during holidays from high school, I would ask about news from my community, and be told that so and so died, the reason being that they could not afford the medical consultation. In most instances, hospitals and public health centres are distances away, and community members have to carry the sick person on a makeshift stretcher. It is paradoxical that people live in such dire straits, when in almost every country there are laws ensuring the right to public health.


There are health services in all asylum centres. Marianne Falk Nielsen, in charge of the Centre Ebeltoft clinic, said, “health service is a right and

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urges inhabitants of the centre to take full advantage of the facilities”. The nurses are there from Monday to Friday. They are ready to provide help with injuries or urgent problems, and see to it that you get an appointment with the doctor. There is a doctor who treats the patients at the clinic or refers the patients to a specialist or treatment in a hospital. In case the patient is referred to a psychiatrist or a psychologist, the patient receives three consultations. If the specialist thinks the patient requires more sessions, an application has to be sent to the Immigration Service. In case of urgent dental care, up to 3,000 kr are provided and beyond that the Immigration Service has to approve.


Asylum seekers may be generally unaware that they have

the right to know the content of their personal medical journal. The health care staff keep a record of all consultations and you can get a copy of your journal on request. Rights automatically and naturally imply duties. When people are living in public centers the risk of contamination is higher, and therefore the inhabitants must create a safe and healthy environment by respecting medical prescription and observing basic rules of hygiene. According to professionals, the inhabitants will suffer less from colds and flu if they take simple precautions such as properly covering themselves.


In centre Ebeltoft, many residents are concerned about tuberculosis. A recent survey showed that out of 100 inhabitants, 31 had latent tuberculosis and 2 people had active tuberculosis. If you receive treatment for TB, it is no longer contagious and you will not infect others. Karen Bjørn from the clinic says: “If you have latent TB (all in question but two in Ebeltoft), you are not ill, can not infect others, but may later in life risk developing TB. You may have been exposed to TB earlier in life and often will newer experience any illness. Treat-

ment can reduce the risk of you later in life developing TB”.


The health care staff try hard to deal with things in the right way, but they can not force people to undergo treatment. They can merely emphasize that people should behave responsibly and do their best to prevent health risks and problems. In the Health Clinic in Ebeltoft, they share the general health information with the inhabitants, but as the saying goes “you can take the horse to the river, but you can not drink for it.”

❚❚By Diane G. The Resident’s Board in Sandholm Centre is a vital link between the residents and the Red Cross staff, and was created in 2009. It is a committee of residents whose responsibility is to help other residents and keep the daily life of asylum seekers going, while waiting for their cases. It gathers once a month. The Residents’ Board consists of eight asylum seekers, while Red Cross staff attends the meetings as observers. To qualilfy to be a representative you need to be able to speak either English or Danish or both. New Times interviewed Jannich Bisp, who started working with the Red Cross in 1992, in a special asylum centre in exYugoslavia, and later as a social worker at Sandholm. He was appointed Head of Department in Sandholm in 1999. He says: “The Residents’ Board was created when there was criticism about the Red Cross’ work at the asylum centre. The idea came from one of the staff members, Tanja and a resident called Delshad. We then decided to elect a group of spokesmen/women via democratic elections”. At first, people brought minor or personal issues to the Board, but soon they escalated to bigger issues with the cafeteria, internet access, the fitness room and how to keep the centre clean. The Board has also created a platform for journalists and politicians to come and see what is happening and report about it. Jannich says that the Residents’ Board will hold an Open House event on the 12th of May this year so people can come and see the life at the centre. He plans to have such an open day every year.


The Residents’ Board helps by informing the relevant higher officials if someone does not feel well or needs to be taken to hospital. The Residents’ Board is also a voice for the residents, so they can air their concerns and change things. For instance, if the food is not cooked properly, the Residents’ Board investigates and makes recommendations to the Red Cross that are acceptable to all the asylum seekers. Another example is if people want to watch TV2, which is not a free channel, they look into the issue and see what can be done. “The staff ensure that what


has been agreed is delivered and in this way we aim to build trust between the Red Cross and the residents. The Residents’ Board is a counseling board and there is no right or wrong way of running things at the centre. What we seek is a mutual interest and understanding in the way issues should be tackled and done”, says Jannich.


Elections for the Residents’ Board are held every six months. Jannich was hoping that 80% of the 630 residents would vote, but they do not force people to vote. Voting is by ballot, and the papers have pictures and names of the candidates. Two weeks before the elections they put up posters of the candidates on the notice board. It takes a day for the Residents’ Board to count the results, after which the candidates are informed and the results are announced. The elected hold office for six months and can be re-elected as many times as they wish to stand, for as long as they are still in the centre. Ali Fahim, one of the candidates in the recent elections said: “my objective is to make Sandholm a better place for asylum seekers and to improve their lives and especially for

newcomers. My vision for the Residents’ Board is for people to feel free and safe in terms of health, collaboration with the staff and service in the cafeteria. Furthermore, I will continue to create a mutual understanding between the Red Cross and residents. The Red Cross cannot really understand asylum seekers’ problems because they are not in our situation and asylum seekers cannot get to know the position of the Red Cross to resolve our problems so there has to be an outlet which is to sit together and find the best way to find solutions”.


Mohamed is a 22 years old resi-

dent in Sandholm, and he was in the asylum centre when the Resident Board was created 2 years ago. “The Board helps residents to express their needs and deal with some issues like creating a good mood in the centre like the Tuesday coffee mix where people chill-out and get to know each other, the wireless Internet and open buffet in the cafeteria”. The result of the election was released soon after the elections were conducted. 58 % of the residents voted. Not as many as hoped for, but after all a clear indication that the majority of the residents want influence. There can be no doubt that residents have interest in partici-

pating in the democratic process in Sandholm and wish to continue the good dialogue and build on the successes, after all “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or even in two years.

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Center Fasan for Women serves as a safe haven for women, while their asylum cases are processed. Located just outside of Copenhagen near Centre Kongelunden, it houses 40 single women, both with and without children, who have indicated a preference or a need to live without men. The setup allows the women to live independently within a community. ❚❚By Dianah Center Fasan for Women serves as a safe haven for women, while their asylum cases are processed. Located just outside of Copenhagen near Centre Kongelunden, it houses 40 single women, both with and without children, who have indicated a preference or a need to live without men. The setup allows the women to live independently within a community. The first centre for women opened in 2001 in Fasanvej, Frederiksberg, which gave the name to the centre. Center Fasan consists of four buildings: one for administration and three in which the women and children live. Each inhabitant has her own room with a computer and Internet access, although the bathroom facilities are shared, with two in each building. The shared kitchen lies in the centre of each residential building and provides a space for the women to individually store their food and cook their own meals.


The staff is quite minimal with two full time social workers to maintain the daily order and direct the functions of Center Fasan.

However there is also a nurse who is present four times a week, two assistants who work 2 days per week, a paediatric nurse who visits once a week, and a doctor who comes to the centre twice a month. Along with these daily employees and health specialists, there is also a job centre that is open to advise the women once a week and help them find courses or praktik.


The small size of the centre promotes strong communication

a continual source of support, care, and safety because it is manned by Red Cross staff 24 hours a day, though they are called only on rare occasions, for instance if there is a fight or unwelcome visitors. As a women’s centre, the presence of men on the property is of course also regulated by the administration. Visiting hours limit any male company to between 10.00 and 22.00 each day. With regard to male children living with their mothers, a policy states that sons may only live at the centre until the age of 14.


between residents and staff in daily conversations and in a weekly meeting that takes place every Wednesday evening. During this meeting the women discuss any concerns or questions that have arisen during the week and the staff find the most effective ways to solve these issues.


Security is important for the residents within the Fasan gates, serving solely to isolate the Women’s Centre from Centre Kongelunden, because, as noted by Lillian, the centre director, “otherwise it is like a prison and the centre is not a prison”. Nonetheless, while the staff work to create a comfortable environment, security is an important factor and Center Fasan’s proximity to Center Kongelunden is

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In order to ensure the wellbeing of the women and children who live there, health is a high priority. A pre-assigned cleaning schedule ensures the sanitation of the facilities, which are cleaned daily by a rota of residents. When a resident contracts an illness, the nurse is available to give health advice or provide basic medication. In more serious cases the nurse will schedule an appointment during one the doctors’ biweekly visits to the centre and, if necessary, organize a visit to a specialist or a doctor outside of the centre.Emergencies are met with the standard procedure for residents in Denmark: the patient is taken to the emergency ward or the duty doctor is called for assistance. One’s mental state also plays

an important role. For this reason mental health is treated with the same urgency as any physical ailment and those who wish to visit a psychiatrist can have appointments scheduled by the nurse, just like any other doctor’s appointment. Mental health is naturally supported by the strong sense of community that has resulted from the intimate size of the centre and the women themselves. Many residents have similar past experiences that have led them here, including the decision to live with other single women and in many ways these similarities cultivate a strong, empathetic community. Birthdays and farewells are celebrated with a communally prepared dinner and many women are part of the centre’s choir. The children attend school in the community and join in the activities in centre Kongelunden.


“We are an asylum centre, like every other asylum centre. The difference is that this is for women”, explains Lillian. She also says the staff’s desire for greater capacity and the belief that all women who want to live without men should have that option: “I would like a centre that could accommo-

date all single women coming to Denmark to seek asylum. But of course if they choose to live somewhere else and not only with women, they should be free to choose that. We have been trying to tell the Immigration Service all through the years that we need more capacity, because we always have a long waiting list of women who want to stay here and we have to refuse many”. Unfortunately the hopes held by the dedicated staff have still been left unmet, yet what the centre is able to provide is still of great importance to the 40 women and children living there. In Maureen’s words: “It is near to town, and living one person in each room is better than in other centres. But most of all, as a woman, I feel safe here”.



Alternative treatment involves healing practices that, in contrast to science-based medical practices, stem from a cultural and traditional background. They are applied when “Western” medicine fails, or as a complementary treatment. Some alternative treatments were adopted into general medical practice after the World Congress of Alternative Medicines at the University of Rome in 1973, most prominently acupuncture. Every nation, province, or region has its own traditional perception for health and medical care: the Chinese have acupuncture; the French magnetic healing; Germans have Heilpraxis; the British have Herbalism; in India it is Ayurveda; in Japan Shiatsu etc. Alternative treatment might not always cure patients, but should always provide some relief. Alternative treatment is a vast field of practice involving diagnosis, medication, and a number of therapies. Although there may be various kinds of classification of alternative treatment, there are two categories:

of Zen Buddhism. She explains that acupuncture is a very old treatment brought to China about 2.500 years ago from India and developed into the practice we know today. There are 32.000 books about acupuncture and its application in relation to various ailments. Comparing conventional medicine and alternative treatment, Henny emphasizes that both are important, but whereas conventional treatment simply cures, alternative treatment keeps you fit as well. Many things can only be felt, but are difficult to describe. Therefore, Henny gave me a Shiatsu and Acupuncture treatment for insomnia and mental stress. I can say that this treatment was simple and natural, but very beneficial. Our body is a natural organism and should be treated using naturally prepared, rather than artificial medicines, since that will keep us more healthy.

1) Based on medication: Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Herbalism, Unani and Chinese Medicines. 2) Based on therapy: Yoga, Acupuncture, Acupressure, Naturopathy, Magneto Therapy, Shiatsu, Meditation, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Chromotherapy, Sound Therapy, Diet Therapy, Hydropathy, Reiki, Biofeedback Therapy, Cellular Therapy, Hypnotherapy, Massage Therapy


For certain disorders such as insomnia, depression, mental stress, anxiety, panic attacks, asthma or joint pain, alternative treatment may be effective when conventional medicine fails. New Times met and interviewed Henny Rohrhuber Pedersen, a well known Shiatsu and Acupuncture expert who practices at her clinic DO -IN Shiatsu, Gasværksvej 4, 1656 Copenhagen V. She explains that it took her eight years to learn and she visited China, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and Austria. She defines health as: “what helps you to live your life in such a way as you want to be”. In China the qi (life force) is believed to be everywhere around us, and when we are able to activate the qi, or rather synchronize ourselves with it, we are in state of absolute well-being. When asked which kinds of patients come to her, Henny says: “all kinds of people come here, but most suffer from mental stress, insomnia, depression, back pains, shoulder pains, etc, but people also come just to get relaxed. People from all walks of life come here, doctors, psychiatrists, engineers, students, people even bring their children”.


According to Henny, the history of Shiatsu is similar to that of acupuncture. Shiatsu is a Japanese pressure therapy developed in the tradition

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PEACEFUL PLACES ❚❚By Tania First impressions of Copenhagen can be of a busy city with cars and bikes and noise everywhere. However, there are places where one can find peace and quiet. Copenhagen has many charming gardens and wild places. If you are looking for a beautiful walk go through the Assistens cemetery. There are few people there so it is a good place to be alone. It is best to go there in the spring and in the summertime and wander along the many paths edged by big trees and lots of flowers. At this time of year the carpets of crocuses in the Frederiksberg Gardens and the Rosenborg Gardens are a wonder to see. Denmark is so flat and if you miss the feeling of being high up with a landscape stretching our in front of you, then try wandering the little winding paths up the little hills in the Botanic Gardens. Another great place to walk is down by the lakes stretching from Østerbro through Nørrebro to Vesterbro. There are a lot of people running and walking around here because of the good paths and the

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bars. This is a nice, relaxing place to feel social. You can sit on the benches and feed the birds or talk with a friend in nice weather. If you like water, then you can go along the harbour. It is hard to feel gloomy with the extra light reflected off the water into your eyes. If you want to explore a little further outside the city you can go to Hillerød. You have to pay to go into the castle, but you can visit the beautiful Baroque gardens and lake for free, and the wild Gribskov woods are just there. These are just some of my favourite peaceful places, but Denmark is full of beautiful places, you just need to open your eyes and look around you. I hope you will add places of your own to this list.

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We sent your questions to the Danish Refugee Council. Here are their replies. I am an asylum seeker. Can I get married to my partner living in denmark who has a permanent residence but does not yet have the Danish nationality?

are granted refugee status in Denmark you generally do not have to meet any of the criteria to get your spouse or children below the age of 15 years to Denmark.

You are not allowed to get married in Denmark if you do not have legal stay. However, you can apply to your partner’s municipality for permission to get married anyway. The municipality will amongst other things look at how long you have known each other, how long you have been in Denmark etc. Usually you must have known each other for at least 1 - 1� years and you must have been in Denmark for at least three years. a) I am homosexual do the same procedures apply? Yes, the same rules apply. b) Please explain the new changes in the 60/120 requirements for family reunification. The requirements for family reunification are listed on the Immigration Services webpage If you

My case was forwarded to the Danish Refugee Board, I have been waiting for the lawyer to write to me for over 5 months now, what should I do? Unfortunately it is very common with a slow processing of asylum cases. You can always ask the staff at your asylum center to call your lawyer and check that the Refugee Board has not forgotten you, but be aware that it is very usual to wait for many months before the case goes before the Refugee Board. In December 2012 I received a negative response to my application for asylum in Austria and am most distressed since I was severely persecuted in Jordan. I want to make a formal complaint to the Austrian Government, please tell

me where and how. Also, can I seek asylum in Denmark now? You can only get your case processed in one European Country. If Austria has already looked into your case it will be Austria who is responsible for your case onwards. This means that if you apply for asylum in another European country - including Denmark - that country will ask Austria to take you back. If you feel that you have been unfairly treated in the Austrian asylum system, you should try to get legal aid in Austria to re-open your asylum case at the Austrian asylum authorities.

IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR OUR LEGAL LETTERS PAGE WRITE TO: New Times, Red Cross House H.C.Ørstedsvej 47 1879 Frederiksberg or email us at Please feel free to ask your questions anonymously.

YOU CAN ALSO CONTACT: Dansk Flygtningehjælp Legal Counseling Unit Asylum Department Borgergade 10 Postbox 53 1002 København K Email: Free Legal Counseling for asylum seekers every Wednesday from 13:00 - 15:00 You need to present your questions in Danish or English

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Mette I like dancing - jazz ballet. I do it every Wednesday evening. I also go to the gym once or twice a week.

Sirwan Football is my favorite sport. I play football two to three times a week. I also go to the gym to keep healthy.

Malene I like working out at the gym. I go four to five times a week. To keep healthy I watch what I eat and I use my bike.

Mads My favourite sport is tennis. I used to play as a child, but not now. To keep healthy I eat healthily and go for walks. I try to take sound easy chances like taking the stairs instead of the escalator in the Metro.

Emil Golf, I call golf a sport. I play three times a week. I also go to the gym three times a week. On training days I eat healthily ... but I party as well.

Rohit My favourite sport is volleyball. I play twice a week. What do I do to keep healthy? I try to make myself happy by talking to people - to anybody!

Diane Swimming and basketball. I’ve not been swimming since I came here as there is no chance to, it costs money and I don’t play basketball because I have no ball and it’s always the men who are playing in Sandholm. To keep healthy I do gymnastics in my room and drink lots of water. Sometimes I get a massage in Trampoline House and I’m learning to ride a bike.

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OVERCOMING ISOLATION ❚❚By Dady de Maximo When we talk about loneliness, isolation is at stake as is the feeling of rejection which gradually becomes a feeling of inferiority. We are all afraid, to be kept separate. It is not easy to manage when you feel rejected by others; it folds in on itself, and people start denying their existence or lack the strength to finally enjoy life. Moreover, people who feel lonely, end up pushing away others as a protection.


The family plays an all important role in our lives. I am thinking also about the extended family. When you’re a refugee, you’re away from your family. Many people are away from their fami-

or an out of the way place. People live as a monks secluded in meditation, or as in a retirement home. A person who was rejected in his country, comes to be rejected again and removed from the circle of life. I fully understand that it’s a long process for the authorities to investigate each case and I know this is not an easy job, but it is too slow for a person who has lost everything and is away from family, home, culture, identity, and who has lost respect and dignity as a human being. Upon arrival we asylum seekers whisper to ourselves: “For once I will be protected, no one will hurt me, people will understand me, nobody will come home with a gun, a machete, a hammer, a knife, a bomb, or grenade...” But what people do not realise is that once in a centre, secluded in a room with strangers who may have lived a similar or worse story than you, people who do not have the same culture as you and do not speak your language. Sometimes you ask your roommate to give you a toothbrush and he gives you a cup... you live together and you cannot communicate, how can these people help each other? It is of course possible, but difficult. Most of the time, an asylum seeker relies only on himself and is lonely. It is true that many refugees feel abandoned; my personal analysis is that the origin of this sense of isolation is related to their condition of life now and their applications for asylum, not to mention the vast indefinite period of expectation of the final decision from the Immigration Service or, for some, from the court.

CHOOSE LIFE lies indefinitely and sometimes, members of the same family live in different camps. This leads to feelings of isolation and can give us a large sense of rejection. Around the world, people seeking asylum arrive in a state of anxiety, after surviving horrors of war, massacres, genocide, ambush, harassment, imprisonment, rape, torture; rejected by society because of religion, ethnicity, tribe or sexual orientation. Once arrived, the first thing that comes to our minds: “Finally it’s over, I will live well” ... Wrong!


I am not going to talk about the conditions in the asylum centres, but the authorities often house asylum seekers in places far removed, in a forest

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I think the solution for anyone who faces isolation is to have contact with life, to be able to make a contribution to society, to know you are personally safe and have a deep sense of security or being with your family. The only remedy is to receive a favorable response to their asylum claim, and to know that their second home can become a reality. But in the meantime, the refugees have the choice either to live or to hang on. They do not have the final decision, it is not them who will decide. But it is they themselves who have the keys to inner happiness despite their present difficulties; they are the ones who must accept to live in order to fight this feeling of injustice which breeds isolation, feelings of rejection which lead to loss of hope; they must care for their wellbeing to live a healthy life.

With hope people can accept with humility those things we cannot change. It gives us the courage to face the disappointments, the sorrows and the most intense pain. Refugees focus inwards on themselves because they do not have the right to work, to go to normal school or to get married. They do not have these rights that a human being must have. But there are still options and opportunities open to them to enable them to maintain their humanity and self-respect. Each individual must choose for him or herself. Activities like sports, cooking, painting, writing, singing, making music, dancing, discussing with other refugees, taking a walk and taking care to maintain their appearance are ways forward to preserve one’s personality and dignity although deep inside they cannot forget the suffering that afflicts. Although the waiting time as an asylum seeker takes long, we must remember it must end sometime; it has a limited duration. The essential and most difficult is to love life, even in the worst suffering. Life is a gift, life is everything.

TWO CHALLENGES FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS ❚❚By Abdallah The journey to another country is not easy. The political and the economic aspects are two of the most challenging aspects of migrating. There is a business side of getting to another country, because asylum seekers deal with smugglers. When they finally arrive they have to deal with different political challenges. Asylum seekers are caught up between the business of people smuggling and the Western countries’ asylum policies.


Men and women, old, young and children are looking for a peaceful place, but it is a dangerous journey. The way an asylum seeker comes to a country is almost like a business transaction. The first danger they encounter is smuggler ‘’Mafia’’. This is a problem, because they may be sent to different locations, before arriving at a final location – and it may not be the destination of their choice. There is also a risk of being imprisoned or deported. Many times, asylum seekers suffer from starvation or thirst because they do not have enough food and water. To reach the final destination, they must endure these challenges as part of the journey to safety.

In Denmark, the asylum system is complicated and politics determine the outcome of the cases. For example, the composition of the Refugee Appeals Board depends on the political agenda. A few weeks after last year’s change of government a statement was issued, stating that The Danish Refugee Council and The Ministry of Foreign Affairs are going to be appointed as members to the Refugee Appeals Board. The waiting time in the asylum centres, short as well as long, is also influenced by political priorities, having a bearing on the money spent on running the asylum centres. Less money will inevitably reduce the possibilities of a bearable waiting time. Thus the political landscape has a big influence on the asylum seekers’ opportunities and well-being. These centres are often crowded, four people having to share a room, and the centres do not offer many activities. For instance, in Avnstrup centre there is just one billiard table and two table tennis tables and a small room for bodybuilding. This is not enough for all the residents and many women feel dominated by the men, when it comes to using the facilities. Money and politics are indeed big challenges for us asylum seekers.


After the challenge of being smuggled into a safe country, the immigrants now face the political situation and power struggle between political factions in that country. The parties that are more open about immigration are trying to gain more power in order to help the asylum seekers. On the other hand, a majority supporting a restrictive asylum policy will often have an impact on a lot of the asylum seekers’ prospects of being granted asylum.

NEW TIMES | MAY 2012 | ISSUE # 82 | PAGE 13

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT? WELCOME TO THE CLINIC ❚❚By Zach In August 2011 Danish Red Cross, Danish Medical Association and Danish Refugee Council joined forces to open the first clinic for illegal immigrants in Denmark. It is a health service for foreign infants, children and adults, who do not have access to the Danish public health

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system. The clinic is located in central Copenhagen and is open Mondays and Wednesdays for all kinds of health problems. According to the Director Vibeke Lenskjold, the clinic was started after concerns were raised by doctors around Denmark about the health of illegal immigrants. “So far it has been very successful,” says Vibeke. “When we

started we were having six to eight patients a week, in the last few months the number has increased to about ten to twelve a week.” The clinic caused controversy when it was opened last August. The Danish People’s Party thought such initiatives would encourage more illegal immigrants to Denmark, but Vibeke is quick to point out that immigrants do not come to Denmark because they are sick, but rather come for other reasons and get sick during their stay here. Illegal immigrants and asylum seekers have lauded the initiative. According to the United Nations, universal health is a human right, so the clinic comes at an opportune time when debate about the rights of immigrants continues to grow. According to Danish Law, all people are entitled to medical care in cases of emergency. Illegal immigrants however have been slow to approach hospitals even in emergencies, for fear of victimisation or disclosure of their illegal status. According to Vibeke, this is a challenge even in her clinic, “People may be afraid, but we do not give information to the police, and so far we have not had any problems with the authorities. People should feel safe coming here”. Approximately 5000 illegal immigrants live throughout Denmark. Vibeke says the clinic is just a start. She says she has a network of volunteer doctors across the country, and she can refer illegal immigrants who live outside Copenhagen when they need medical care. The clinic hopes to expand its services to include dental care by April and possibly extend the opening hours. “So far, so good”, says Vibeke: “The clinic is financed by a private foundation and the Red Cross only sets guidelines on how it should be run. We hope we will have enough money to continue running the project”.

FACTS THE CLINIC IS FOR ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS IN DENMARK Services offered: ❚❚ Ordinary medical examination and treatment ❚❚ Vaccination of infants and children ❚❚ Regular examination (antenatal of pregnant women) ❚❚ Physiotherapy treatment ❚❚ Dentistry ❚❚ Consultation with a psychologist Open for general consultation: Monday & Wednesdays 5.00pm-8.00pm Open for dental problems and physiotherapy: Alternate Thursdays 5.00pm-8pm TEL: 3171 6164 SERVICES ARE FREE OF CHARGE

They are important people; they are responsible for the safety of passengers on trains, metros and at the stations. They dedicate their work to helping customers and inspect tickets despite sometimes encountering uncooperative passengers. New Times interviewed DSB inspector Peter137 about the general rules for travellers and his encounters as a DSB inspector.

TICKETS PLEASE!! ❚❚By Maryanne The job of a DBS inspector entails more than just checking tickets, it also involves giving information and advising customers, for example about cheaper ways to travel. There is no specific education for people wanting to become inspectors but among other many qualifications one has be a good communicator and able to socialize with people. Peter explains what is best about the job, “meeting different people each day, also the smiles and thanks yous from people after helping them ….. and the worst is when people are violent, insulting and uncooperative”. The most common mistakes people make on trains or metros are when they forget to count all the colours they are travelling through and not paying for all the zones.


People make all sorts of excuses. Peter gave some examples, “some people say they forgot their cards at home or in another jacket, they paid but the telephone charge went out, they forgot to clip, the time ran out, the machine wasn’t working or that they didn’t know how many zones they were going through the list is endless...” He continues, “some have tried to bribe me, like they would like to give me half the fine, but I tell them ‘no, you have to pay the fine’.”


Eleven shop where the personnel can clip and stamp your ticket. If your ticket expires then you can continue your journey, but you can’t change train or metro.”


Some days Peter is writes out fines for up to 12 people. If you get a fine, then you are allowed to finish your journey on that particular train or metro, but you can’t board another train or metro. The fine is 750 kroner if you have no ticket or it is invalid, but if you forget a month card with your picture, you can complain to the DSB customer service within 14 days and your fine may be reduced to 125 kroner. Normally if you don’t pay, the fine increases by 100 kroner every month. Getting caught doesn’t mean that you automatically have to pay up. You can complain and explain to Customer Service within fourteen days. If Customer Service accepts the reason, they annul the fine, but on condition that you don’t reoffend.


Peter’s last words, “Its best if customers cooperate with us, if they check their tickets before travelling and if in any doubt contact the DSB Customer Service department, ask a DSB inspector or go to the 7 Eleven shop. For more information log onto www. Have a safe trip”.

Sometimes, people’s explanations are not excuses. Peter gives good advice, “If a ticket machine isn’t working, then you should try all the machines on the platform, call the service station or go to the station’s 7 FACTS ❚❚ DSB : stands for Danske Statsbaner. ❚❚ DSB is an independent public company owned by the Danish Ministry of Transport. ❚❚ DSB offers travel to more than 195 million passengers every year ❚❚ DSB employs over 9300 staff

NEW TIMES | MAY 2012 | ISSUE # 82 | PAGE 15

SPORTS WE STREETMEKKA ❚❚By Franjo StreetMekka is a 2200 m2 indoor sports facility where you can play basketball, street dance, break dance, do parkour and go to the DJ school. Here children and young people from all over Copenhagen practice street sports in raw and authentic surroundings. StreetMekka is funded by the City of Copenhagen with support from a local fund. My first impression was great. I was surprised by the number of people I met there and the

CAPOEIRA ❚❚By Jean Claude Capoeira is an amazing sport. It is a Brazilian martial art form, which resembles dance, but combines fight, dance, acrobatics, music and songs. Capoeira is a dialogue between the players, a game as well as a sport. Capoeira is hard exercice and will keep you fit and healthy. It is also great fun and will provide you something to do! In Center Avnstrup, where I currently stay, there is a capoeira workshop, where we play every Wednesday from 5 to 6 pm. You are welcome to join us! We will also participate in the Roskilde Festival this year.

CRICKET ❚❚By Hasi Cricket makes me feel good. Cricket is my passion and hobby. I am an allrounder, that is I like both batting and bowling and fielding. I have played since my childhood. I enjoy playing in a team. As a cricketer will play wherever I get a chance. Therefore I am very lucky that the Albertslund cricket club has let me visit them. I’ve played one match with them so far. The manager, Mr Umair Batt said I was most welcome. We practice every week for 3 hours. Apart from practicing batting, bowling and fielding we run around the ground to get fit. Cricket is good for my body and for my brain. I get out of the centre, I think about the game and not about my other problems.

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hospitality of the staff. It costs 20 DKK to join and then 10 DKK per session. This system is much better than in fitness clubs where you pay by the month and which in any case are too expensive for asylum seekers. I hope I have convinced you to join StreetMekka and I hope we will see each other on the asphalt. Open every day from 14.00 - 21.00 StreetMekka, Enghaveveg 82 D, 2450 København SV. Tel: 3323 6665. Email: Webpage:


Writings by AS