How to integrate asylum seekers into Danish society with the help of dialogic communication approaches

Project Report, 2007

71 Pages, Grade: A


Content table

1. Introduction

2. General problem description

3. Asylum seekers in Denmark – The current situation
3.1 Some statistical facts
3.2 The Asylum Centres
3.2.1 Reception Centre and Departure Centre – Sandholm and Avnstrup
3.2.2 Accommodation Centres
3.2.2 1. The Woman Centre Th3 The Centre for Unaccompanied Minors– Gribskorv
3.3 Application for Asylum
3.3.1 Before an application for asylum is processed
3.3.2 Processing an application for asylum
3.3.3 Three procedures 1st case 2nd case 3rd case
3.3.4 When an asylum seeker is rejected
3.3e special care centre – Kongelunden
3.2.2..5 When an asylum seeker is granted a residence permit

4. The first Problem
4.1 Why a communication problem
4.2 Our aim
4.3 How to reach this aim

5. Sub problem: Mental diseases because their life looses sense
5.1 How to change this problem

6. Sub problem: Asylum seekers are not able to create contact with the labour market
6.1 How to solve this problem

7. Current or previous projects

8. Methodology
8.1 Why a Dialogic Communication Campaign?

9. Social Marketing
9.1 The social marketing approach

10. Project Plan

11. CMM- approach

12. Photovoice method and Open Gallery

13. Net Activism: the Virtual Gallery.

14. Shedd Practical approach of CMM-theory

15. Weaknesses of the project

16. Strong points of the project

1. Introduction

Speaking about a problem as the situation of the asylum seekers is complex for manifold reasons as it is bounded with many different aspects regarding our current society. It concerns the political situation of our world and includes social and economic problems in many countries. Related with these problems is the anonymous and sometimes wrong way the media present the asylum seekers.

In this work, we are supposed not to analyse all problems related with the rights of asylum seekers, but we are going to focus on the perception of these people that the danish society has.

The behaviour of a society towards asylum seekers shows the society's real face. According to A. Sayad, a sociologist French-Algerian director of research of the CNRS at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) and assistent of Pierre Bourdieu, the immigration therefore has a mirror- function for the host society:

“Habitually one speaks of a “mirror function” of the immigration, i.e. of the privileged occasion that it constitutes making evident what is latent in the constitution and in the functioning of the social order, unmasking what is masked, making evident what it tries to ignore and let in a state of “innocence” or social ignorance, bringing to light or enlarging (mirror's effect) what habitually is hidden in the social unconscious and must therefore stay in the shade, in a secret condition or not socially thought”[1].

It means that the behaviour of the society towards the refugees makes evident which are the shadows of the society. In this way, the society shows its real face, its fears and its anxieties, identifying the migrants as the “others”, the enemy that forces it to rebuild its identity.

So, the refugee is reinvented continuously as threat for our society (he is a danger for our demographic stability, for the jobs of our children, for the security of our cities, for our cultural homogeneity, for our values): he is a constitutive enemy. He is an enemy because he is considered as a threat for the foundation of the state. He is a ontological enemy because our society needs him to define itself and to take possession of the territory.

As the former points describe, societies see asylum seekers as symbolic enemies. On the other hand, refugees as guests can be an advantage for the host society, given that they will not disturb the community avoiding the expulsion. Thus for the society there might be economical and social advantages: economical because the refugees might accept working conditions that the “normal” citizen would not accept, social because he will not be viewed as the enemy.

The problem of the immigration, and in this case the immigration of persons from a third - world - country who come to our society applying for a residence permit (there exists also another kind of immigration that concerns people from the “first world”, but this kind of immigration is totally tolerated), is a catalyst for material and symbolic conflicts. For instance this kind of material and symbolic conflicts is increased after the 11th September 2001, due to the fear, alimented from the media's system, concerning the danger of the terrorism, creating a spread panic in the western societies towards the persons that come from countries out of the “first world”.

The manner in which the migrants are presented by the media, through numbers and statistics, is a way to generalize the “other”, so that the image of these persons is one of an anonymous, indistinguishable mass. Thus it is more simple to create the idea of the “other” in the mind of citizens, hiding the real motivations for which these persons decided to leave their countries: it is not so hard to imagine that leaving the community in which one grew up is an important turning-point for his life which probably leads to existential insecurity.

After a long travel, during which he probably lost friends and relatives, the asylum seeker reaches a country in which he puts all his expectations. But when he arrives, he has to spend his life either in a centre without having had the possibility to recognize his basic rights, or he will be sent back to the country from where he fled due to political, economic or religious reasons.

In the first case in which the refugee must live for a period of his life in an asylum centre, he probably will understand what an existence without perspective means: he has no longer his old life because he has left his community with all the social relations that he had had behind. Having arrived at the country he wishes to stay in, he has not the opportunity to build up a new life because he will not be accepted from the host community. Thus his life will be characterized by an eternal present with memories of the past but without expectations for the future.

These are summarily the conditions the migrants who ask for a residence permit in the western societies have to deal with. Most of the times, they are not allowed to stay: despite the Geneva Convention has ratified that for refugees human rights should be granted, the current situation does not guarantee effectively these rights for all persons that apply for political asylum, assuring these rights only to those migrants who could be accepted according to the standards and the values of the host nation.

According to what A. Dal Lago says in his book “Non-persone. L'esclusione dei migranti dalla società globale” about the persons who have the rights of a full citizen, the human rights are not guaranteed to all.

“Today more then yesterday, therefore, enjoys the rights of the person who is citizen of the states that have elaborated a culture of the juridical warranties of the man, that is therefore a legitimate part of juridical-political national order. [...] In fact, the concrete orders consider several elements (economical in the first place) in determining who is susceptible to be recognized with all effects as a person.”[2]

For Dal Lago it is clear that the humanitarian rights are guaranteed only in the cases in which the migrants or the refugees come from a country with a juridical order compatible with the order of the host state, but it is evident too that, given that the society in which we live is a complex society, the juridical order is tightly dependent from the economical order.

The status of “person” is granted only to those people who are part of a nation, but not to all people. Thus, given that there is not an international juridical system that judges the rights of the people but this kind of issue is solved through the different national orders, the decision concerning the permission of residence will be guaranteed to those persons that have a state they can rely on. This is contradictory: persons who can rely on their state do not need to seek for asylum. The ones who cannot rely on their state mostly do not get asylum.

2. General Problemdescription

Although the Danish situation of the refugees concerning the basic humanitarian rights is quite better then those of other countries (as we can note later with the description of the conditions of asylum seekers), also in Denmark we can find some open questions and some problems regarding this issue. These questions and problems at least regard all countries that decide to apply a politics of restriction towards asylum seekers: all that has been ratified through a law that intends to protect the European borders from the possible “invasion” of the “others”, the foreigns[3].

The main problem is:

Why does a huge number of refugees can not get a residence permit and at the same time has not the possibility to go back to their own country for different reasons? Why do these persons can not have a normal life as all people have, given that they came to rebuild their existence? How is it possible to solve this problem, using the tools that we possess?

To better understand which are the existential conditions in which these persons are, it is useful to quote what a great philosopher of our age said regarding it. The philosopher is Hannah Arendt and she wrote unforgettable pages about the totalitarian systems and the people that suffered this kind of political order.

“The calamity of the rightless is not that they are deprived of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or of equality before the law and freedom of opinion – formulas which were designed to solve problems within given communities – but that they no longer belong to any community whatsoever. Their plight is not that they are not equal before the law, but that no law exists for them; not they are oppressed but that nobody wants even oppress them”[4].

Thus, the main problem for the refugees is that they have not rights, in particular we speak about the political and juridical rights, because in any cases, as in the one of Denmark, the humanitarian rights are safeguarded, even if we have to claim that not in all European countries these humanitarian rights are guaranteed. The refugees are nothing, and in the danish case they are compelled to suffer this situation for a long time: According to the Immigration Service, the average time an asylum seeker stays in Denmark is about 3 years and 3months[5]. The guarantee of their rights remains a theoretical concern treated by the international law, but that does not find a practical application in each national jurisdiction, because each country can decide to apply the law concerning the asylum seekers or can modify the law as they pleased.

In all this process, the media's representation plays a big role in the justification of this kind of political enactment, using anonymous data like statistics to explain who these persons are, providing only generic informations about them. The numbers and the informations offered are a way not to discuss the problems that those persons represent for the society: using generalized data (how many they are, where they come from, which ethnic group they belong to or which religion they profess), they draw the attention of the citizenship on the “otherness” of them, and not on the problems they carry.

At the same time, the citizens will consider that problem as something external to their life, without understanding that it belongs to themselves. The problem of “otherness” has to be considered as a common problem because the refugees are present in a society and citizenship has the duty to share the existential malaises that they suffer, given that these malaises can influence the welfare of the whole community. This kind of thought naturally goes against the dominant thought, but it is based on finding a solution of a social problem through the participation of all.

The issue of the refugees therefore does not regard the freedom of speech and expression or the freedom of movement, but the right to be recognized as a part of a community; just the fact that they do not have a place in the world, render them rightless. As H. Arendt affirms:

“But neither physical safety – being fed by some state or private welfare agency – nor freedom of opinion changes in the least their fundamental situation of rightlessness. The prolongation of their lifes is due to charity and not to right, for no law exists which could force the nations to feed them. [...] They are deprived, not of the right to freedom, but of the right to action; not of the right to think whatever they please, but of the right to opinion.”[6]

Thereby, the real problem is that they have no significance in the host nation, because they are not guaranteed the rights to be part of this society. All this provokes irreparable psychological damages: as we know from an interview with Mette Jensen from the Red Cross of Copenhagen and with some members of an NGO that treats these problems, there are many cases of refugees that suffer from mental illnesses due to the conditions they have to live in, e.g. a life without expectations concerning work or relationships.

Given that it is not in our power to change directly the law regarding the rights of the asylum seekers and it would be quite hard to convince the politicians to do so, we have tried to develop a plan to let the citizenship share the problems of the refugees, using the tools at our disposal.

The goal of this project is to show to the Danish society and more in general to the European society that, behind these generic “others”, there are personal stories constituted by uncertain decisions, partially conscious life projects, existential trajectories that, depending on the current scientific rhetoric and on the enumeration of data and numbers, are blended in collective processes and become pure abstractions.

The goal is therefore to give voice and significance to this part of our society that currently does not have one.

“The paradox involved in the loss of human rights is that such loss coincides with the instant when a person becomes a human being in general – without a profession, without a citizenship, without an opinion, without a deed by which to identify and specify himself – and different in general, representing nothing but his own absolutely unique individuality which, deprived of expression within and action upon a common world, loses significance.”[7]

After long discussions among our group we have decided to leave space to the voices of the asylum seekers, being sure that this strategy is more effective than a top-down-communication. We do not want to be spokesman/woman of their rights, however we would like that they become spokesman/woman for themselves towards the society.

Only in this way the asylum seekers could be active participants of the society: through the dialogue between the citizens and the refugees it will be possible to build a community, that is something different compared with a collectivity. In the community in fact is not merely a summary of individuals, but is a place where common values are respected, in order to leave towards one others. According to Thomas we can claim that the dialogue in a community is grounded on the understanding of the otherness of the other, on his difference.

“It is in the actual reaching out to the other, in the affirmation of the otherness of the other, that the genuine dialogue takes place. And the act of dialogue is the act of making oneself whole, of freeing oneself from the shackles of individualism and emerging into full personhood in a community.”[8]

It means naturally that the community does not consist of an homogenized culture, but that the different cultures shall share some common values like the freedom for plurality, the respect of the norms and the values of the many cultural groups who need and agree to live in harmony in a community. Nevertheless the shape of this culture can not be transmitted from the top to the down, but it must be an ongoing process in which every part of the community participates. Thus, resuming what Nair and White has written in their essay, we can state that:

“ the people themselves must participate not only in identifying what the information is needed, but in the process of message development and construction itself.”[9]

And all that is worth also for that part of the society that at the present time has not voice: also this part could represent a potential for the community.

3. Asylum seekers in Denmark – The current situation

In order to give an impression about the current situation of asylum seekers in Denmark, the formal background like the procedure of application and the camps shall be described. The information is taken from the homepage which is provided by the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs and the Danish Immigration Service and from the homepage of the Danish Red Cross which is responsible for most of the asylum centres. The page of the Danish Red Cross has been last updated the 15th of may 2007, the page at the 8 of July 2007.

3.1 Some statistical facts

According to the Red Cross, 1479 asylum seekers live at the moment in their centres, coming from 66 different countries,mainly from Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Somalia and Palestine (which is not considered as a state). According to the Immigration Service, the average time an asylum seeker stays in Denmark is about 3 years and 3months. Within this average, the time can vary a lot: “The average hides a wide variation from newcomers to asylum seekers who have been here for 5, 6 and 7 years” (Danish Red Cross,, pdf – file “statistics”). Of all asylum seekers, only 17% actually get asylum. In total, there are eight asylum centres, six run by the Danish Red Cross, two by local councils in northern Jutland.

3.2 The Asylum Centres

Not all asylum centres have the same function and lodge the same people. In the following, a short description of the different kinds shall be provided.

3.2.1 Reception Centre and Departure Centre – Sandholm and Avnstrup

As the name already says, a reception centre is the place where new asylum seekers come to. In Denmark, centre Sandholm in northern Sealand fulfils this function. According to InfoMedia, a Danish on-line – newspaper[10], five new asylum seekers arrive there every day, half of them brought by the police, the other half coming on their own. After having been registered by the Red Cross, they stay in Sandholm till the Immigration service decides whether they can apply for asylum or not.

At the same time, Sandholm also serves as a departure centre. That means that the asylum seekers who have been refused and who are

- either waiting for being sent back or
- refuse to go home

stay there too. Another departure centre is Avnstrup which the same time also serves as accommodation centre.

Included into centre Sandholm is a detention camp for asylum seekers which is run by the prison service and offices of the police and the immigration department.

3.2.2 Accommodation Centres

If the immigration service decides that an asylum seeker is allowed to apply for asylum, the person moves from centre Sandholm to one of the accommodation centres. Three of the five centres have special functions: there is one woman centre, one special care centre and one centre for unaccompanied minors.

“At the accommodation centres, the children go to school, kindergartens and clubs and the adult residents can attend courses and get job training placements within the Danish red cross or in Danish educational institutions or companies.” (Danish Red Cross,, pdf – file “asylum centres”).

3.2.2 1. The Woman Centre.

In this centre live woman who have been e.g. raped or attacked in their home country or who come from a cultural background that makes it embarrassing for them to share e.g. a toilet with a foreign men as they would have to in an ordinary accommodation centre. Another reason for woman choosing this centre is the wish to leave a problematic marriage behind. The special care centre – Kongelunden

This centres lodges asylum seekers who have either psychological problems that need special treatment, asylum seekers who are physically disabled or who have been tortured. The Centre for Unaccompanied Minors – Gribskorv

Here, the children who come to Denmark without their parents to seek for asylum, are lodged.

For all asylum seekers counts that they are not allowed to work. Only the 17% who are granted asylum can start looking for a job afterwards. According to the page and the Red Cross, there are some exceptions which shall be described after the application process.

After having given some general facts about asylum seekers in Denmark and after having described the different kind of centres, the general application process shall be described.

3.3 Application for Asylum

3.3.1 Before an application for asylum is processed

An asylum seeker who enters Denmark and applies for asylum is called a spontaneous asylum seeker and must contact immediately the police. It is the responsibility of the National Police Commissioner’s Office to establish the nationality and identity of the asylum seeker. The police will fingerprint and photograph the asylum seeker, and record an official statement from him or her, including a description of the route he or she travelled to Denmark.

This procedure is necessary to assure that the person has the right to apply for asylum in Denmark and not in another EU- country. The Dublin Regulation, which has been adopted by the European Union, establishes in which country an application for asylum filed in an EU country should be processed. According to the Regulation, an asylum application can be processed in one EU country only. If an applicant has been in contact with authorities in another EU country, his or her asylum application may not be processed in Denmark. Instead, the asylum seeker will be sent to the country of first registration, where his or her application will be processed.

Alternatively, the asylum seeker may be referred to a 'safe third country' for processing. An applicant may be sent on to such a country if he or she has resided there prior to arriving in Denmark. 'Safe third countries' include Switzerland, the United States, and Canada.

As described above, the asylum seekers stay in centre Sandholm during this procedure.

3.3.2 Processing an application for asylum

If the Immigration Service decides that an asylum application can be processed in Denmark, the Immigration Service will then determine whether or not asylum can be granted. The asylum seeker will be asked to fill out an application form in which he or she can explain in more specific terms the reason why he or she is seeking asylum in Denmark. Thereafter, the Immigration Service will interview the applicant, assisted by an interpreter.

Following the interview, the Immigration Service will rule on the case, based on a factual and individual assessment of all relevant information pertaining to the case. The Immigration Service will consider the statement provided by the asylum seeker, as well as general information on conditions in the applicant's country of origin.

3.3.3 Three procedures 1st case

Most cases are processed according to normal procedure . This means that if the application for asylum is rejected, the case is referred to the Refugee Appeals Board which will make the final ruling on the case. 2nd case

A minority of cases are considered manifestly unfounded . This means that the Immigration Service assesses that the applicant is clearly not eligible for asylum. Then, the Danish Refugee Council (NGO) will make a statement on the case. If they agree with the Immigration Service that the application is manifestly unfounded, it will be rejected without contest. If, on the other hand, the Danish Refugee Council disagrees, the Immigration Service will generally maintain its rejection of the application, but will refer the case to the Refugee Appeals Board for a final ruling. 3rd case

In certain cases, asylum applications are processed according to an expedited version of the manifestly unfounded procedure . This happens when the asylum seeker comes from a country where, according to the most up-to-date information available, it is unlikely that the applicant would risk persecution on return. “In these cases, the asylum seeker will not be asked to fill out an application form, and he or she is quickly referred for an interview with the Immigration Service.”[11] The Danish Refugee Council will then give a statement on the case. If this is in accordance with the ruling of the Immigration Service, the application will be rejected as soon as possible. These cases are processed within a few days.

3.3.4 When an asylum seeker is rejected

If an asylum applicant receives a final rejection, he or she must leave Denmark immediately, but will be granted some time to prepare for departure. If an applicant is suffering from an acute illness, is in an advanced stage of pregnancy, or has given birth shortly before the final ruling, he has got more time to prepare for departure . A final rejection means that the applicant has no more avenues available to appeal the ruling. Rejections delivered by the Refugee Appeal Board or by the Immigration Service in so-called 'manifestly unfounded' cases are regarded as final. If a rejected asylum seeker refuses to leave Denmark voluntarily, it is the responsibility of the police to ensure his or her departure.

This information from the page conflicts with the information of the Danish Red Cross. According to them, the police is not allowed to send asylum seekers back to their home country if they refuse to go back voluntarily. This information fits with the one from the newspaper article “Velkommen: Bag om pigtraden” from Info Media: they state that 350 of the 600 inhabitants of centre Sandholm are rejected asylum seekers who refuse to go back voluntarily. Therefore they live in the centres, sometimes for several years, trying to make the Immigration service discuss their case again or waiting for a change in their home country. These facts are related to the problem, which shall be defined later on.

3.3.5 When an asylum seeker is granted a residence permit

If an applicant is granted asylum, the Immigration Service will decide where in Denmark he or she is to live.If substantial humanitarian considerations warrant it, the Ministry of Refugee, Immigration, and Integration Affairs has the authority to grant a temporary residence permit to an asylum seeker whose application for asylum has been rejected. Very few permits of this type are ever granted.

The Job Card Scheme

Foreign nationals, including asylum seekers (even if they have been denied asylum), can be granted a residence and work permit if they have been offered a job in Denmark which is included on the Positive List, or a job with an annual pay of DKK 450,000. The Positive List contains a number of professions/ educations mainly in the engineering, health and natural science sector that allow a holder of a degree in this area to apply for a work permit. This regulation is also valid for asylum seekers. The living circumstances and application procedure might seem human in comparison e.g. with the Italian system where asylum seekers as a maximum can stay 60 days in the so called cpt-centres and then, if the authorities can identify them, are send back home. While staying in the centres, they have not the right to leave them nor the right to use their mobile phones. If the authorities do not succeed in identifying them, they are thrown out on the street. Still, the situation of asylum seekers in Denmark can be improved a lot. In the following part, a description of the main problems, the aims of our campaign and ideas how to solve the problems shall be provided.

1) The Problem

According to an interview with Mette Jensen, who works in the Red Cross and coordinated some project for asylum seekers, the main problem concerning asylum seekers is that they are not allowed to work. Although the Job Card Scheme offers a number of careers that open the door to a work and residence permit, this is an option for very few asylum seekers. Mette Jensen points out that in the last years, only two asylum seekers could use this option. As the average time an asylum seeker stays in one of the camps is 3 years and 3 months, the lack of a senseful task like a job is an essential matter. Furthermore, Danish inhabitants pay taxes for maintaining the living costs, produced by each asylum seeker annually (135.000 DK per year). Would they have the right to work, they would have to pay taxes themselves and could contribute to the Danish society.

On the first gaze, this matter might seem to be a juristic or political problem. But, as Windahl and Signitzer state in their “Introduction to Communication Planning”, a communication problem exists when “the problem results from a lack of or the wrong type of communication” or /and “if it is possible to solve it with the help of communication”.

Why a communication problem

The Danish constitution ( is partially monarchistic which means that on the one hand, the Danish king or the Danish queen rules the country, on the other hand a parliament, based on democratic principles is responsible for e.g. laws. This parliament, in Denmark, is the “Folketing“ which at best consists of 179 members and is elected by the Danish citizens. This means, that citizens have the power to change the constitution by electing strategically. As till now not enough Danish citizens vote for “Folketing”-members who want to change the law concerning the work permit of asylum seekers, we consider them not being worried about the situation. Although there has been a lot of information about the situation of asylum seekers during the last years in the Danish media, citizens are not aware about the problematic. They see asylum seekers as “the others” who do not belong to their society. Would they consider them to be part of their community, they might want to reach better conditions for them. As we want to create real understanding of their situation, the problem can be considered as a communication problem.

Our aim

Our main aim is to re-frame the perception of asylum seekers and their problems e.g. why they came to Denmark. We want citizens to understand which effect the unsuccessful application for a residence permit has for asylum seekers. Therefore, we want to engage them into personal dialogue in which the anonymous “other” gets a concrete face.

How to reach this aim

In the following essay, we shall present a communication plan, based on dialogic communication approaches, focusing on communication as interactive meaning-making, leading to change. The dialogic approaches shall be used to establish dialogue between citizens and asylum seekers.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Different Dialogic approaches (café, and gallery, combined with the photovoice method from the health campaign approach; creation of a Website to create the basis for a ongoing discussion).


[1] Sayad, A. (1996). La doppia pena del migrante. Riflessioni sul “pensiero di stato”, “aut aut”, 275, p.10. The translation of this part of the book is mine, hence I must apologize with the author for the possible mistake that there can be present in it.

[2] Dal Lago, A. (2004). Non-persone. L'esclusione dei migranti dalla società globale, Feltrinelli Editore, Milano, p. 219. The translation of this part of the book is mine, hence I must apologize with the author for the mistakes that there can be present in it.

[3] Regarding the European law on immigration and preservation of the European borders look at http://http//

[4] Arendt, H. (1961). The origins of Totalitarianism, The World Publishing Company, Cleveland, pp. 295-296.

[5] Danish Red Cross,, pdf – file “statistics”

[6] Arendt, H., op.cit., p. 296.

[7] Ivi, p. 302.

[8] White, S., Nair, K. S., Ascroft, J. (1994 ). Participatory Communication, Sage Publication, New Delhi p. 53.

[9] Ivi, p. 168.

[10] See the Website for more informations:, article “Velkommen: Bag om pigtraden“ from the 22nd of April 2006.

[11] For more informations about the procedures look at:

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How to integrate asylum seekers into Danish society with the help of dialogic communication approaches
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Bachelor of Arts Katharina Haering (Author), 2007, How to integrate asylum seekers into Danish society with the help of dialogic communication approaches, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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