Sometimes you need to take a step back. That’s what our photo editor Rasmus Degnbol did when he travelled through Europe hot on the heels of the refugee crisis. But refugees hardly even feature in the series. Instead he used a drone to take photos from high above to show landscapes divided by borders, visible and invisible. The borders are the subject, he argues, for they have prevented people from going where they want to go.
The short-term solution to the crisis has been to open borders to those in need, and grant them the same rights as those in the country. But having formal rights isn’t the same as effective rights. People thrive when they can access power through their network. You might have all the rights in the world, but without a deep understanding of how to use the system – or someone to trust as a guide – its hard to realise your ambitions.
In our interview with Eskild Dahl, who heads the social services in the marginalised housing association Mjølnerparken, he explains how refugees continue to live on benefits and lack Danish language skills decades after they first arrived. We also talked to author and sociologist Aydin Soei in this issue, who grew up in a similar type of neighbourhood in the suburb Avedøre. He would unlikely have written his latest book if he hadn’t moved to a middle class part of the city when he was 10.
An uncertain future in a Danish ‘ghetto’ (as the government insists on calling them) is preferable to death in Aleppo. And in recent months civil society and private sector have launched a number of integration programmes to get new arrivals into work as quickly as possible.
But we should also invest heavily in making sure conflicts don’t arise to produce refugees in the first place. Ahlam Chemlali, our cover story, makes this point. Her work for the anti-torture organisation DIGNITY is focussed on reducing conflict and violence in developing countries. Her horrifying tales of pervasive and systematic torture should make us appreciate the incredible justice system we have created, which means we never fear torture at the hands of the state.
Sure, it’s great that Lukas Graham is number one on the US hit list, but it’s a pity that Denmark’s greatest export is a singer from Christiania – it should be its fair justice system and transparent institutions that secure the rights of all citizens.
What’s that? The government has cut the foreign aid budget, which has severely affected the ability of NGOs to carry out this work? Oh. Well, at least we’ve got Lukas. M