Tue

Jun

2109:00

The Northern Jungle

 
In a remote part of Copenhagen harbour, refugees and migrants have set up a makeshift home.

Tippen feels like the edge of the Earth. To the west, black smoke rises above the factories in the central harbour, while grasslands stretch to the south as far as the eye can see, like a dirty yellow blanket. Cold winds blow in from the sea and the smell of fish and burned rubber is overwhelming.

The small peninsula on the southern part of Copenhagen’s harbour has a long history of lawlessness. Once it was used as a burial ground for plague victims and later as a dumping ground for industrial waste.

Items left behind by migrants in an abandoned camp. According to the International Organization of Migration, there are over 200 million migrants worldwide and Europe is home to the highest number.

Items left behind by migrants in an abandoned camp. According to the International Organization of Migration, there are over 200 million migrants worldwide and Europe is home to the highest number.

For a long time, migrants from the former Soviet bloc have set up camps in the barren no man’s land, but in recent years the area has increasingly housed a growing number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

The camp where Masoud found himself sleeping when he first came to Denmark. Camps like these can easily be found around the harbour district, although they are regularly raided by the immigration police.

The camp where Masoud found himself sleeping when he first came to Denmark. Camps like these can easily be found around the harbour district, although they are regularly raided by the immigration police.

One of those is Masoud (22) from Idlib in Syria. He was refused asylum in Denmark and with no money left to return, he eventually found himself sleeping rough with a group of other illegal migrants in an area they call ‘The Northern Jungle’. The name is a play on the refugee camp in Calais, where many of them stayed before arriving in Denmark. Here they live in makeshift camps built with driftwood and scrap metal, earning money by scavenging copper and other metals, or as day labourers in the harbour.

The Bashur family's dog "Aalam," the arabic name for 'world,' here seen with her favourite toy.

The Bashur family’s dog “Aalam,” the arabic name for ‘world,’ here seen with her favourite toy.

For decades, the prospect of a safe and secure life within the Danish welfare state has made the country a desired destination for refugees. However, the reality that greets them stands often in stark contrast to the northern utopia they had hoped for.

Alaya Rengin, the state flag of Iraqi Kurdistan, hangs in the window of Mr Bashur's office. Mr. Bashur, himself an Iraqi refugee who came to Denmark in the late 1990s, has taken in illegal refugees and migrants, letting them work in his shop until they have enough money to continue their journey or travel back home.

Alaya Rengin, the state flag of Iraqi Kurdistan, hangs in the window of Mr Bashur’s office. Mr. Bashur, himself an Iraqi refugee who came to Denmark in the late 1990s, has taken in illegal refugees and migrants, letting them work in his shop until they have enough money to continue their journey or travel back home.

Since the beginning of the worst migrant crisis since WWII, the Danish government has become increasingly hostile towards refugees and migrants. In early 2016, parliament passed a bill, which allows Danish authorities to seize valuables that are worth more than 10,000 kroner from asylum-seekers in order to help pay for the migrants’ subsistence, a bill the UN has called “an affront to their dignity and an arbitrary interference with their right to privacy.”

Since going to print, Masoud has left the country to apply for asylum in Sweden. M

Features, News

By Aleksander Klug

A freelance visual journalist and political correspondent. Aleksander reports on social justice issues and European politics. @aleksander_klug

Facebook comments