Dataset: Refugees in Denmark, 1986


The object of the refugee work in Denmark is - in addition to offering physical and legal protection - to provide such support and take such remedial action as will in due time enable the refugees to participate in society on an equal footing with the Danish population. The object, in other words, is to start a process the aim of which is functional integration, i.e. a process entailing a gradual and harmonious adjustment to Danish society, but with the possibility of preserving the original cultural and ethnic identity. The main task is to equip the refugees with such linguistic, occupational, and educational skills as will enable them to use their own resources and competence for shaping their careers and lives in the receiving country. # Over the past 30 years, during which time the refugee work was firmly established in Denmark, no one ever questioned its main objective. The vehicle for attaining this goal is the work of integration. Neither in the laws nor among the authorities who carry out the day-to-day practical work of integration do we find a more precise formulation of the purpose of that work aside from the over-all aim of achieving equality between national and new citizens. # The knowledge about the extent to which and in which areas the integration work in Denmark can be said to have achieved its objective is very meagre. This is probably first of all due to the fact that until 1984 the task was a modest one from a socio-economic viewpoint. # It was only when the influx of spontaneous refugees gathered momentum from the autumn of 1984 that interest in the practical implementation of the integration work and its different aspects and methods came to the fore in Denmark. # The present study is the first among several which the Danish National Institute of Social Research has inititated with the aim of identifying both the short-term and long-term effects of the integration work. # The subject is the transfer from the Danish Refugee Council (Dansk Flygtningehjælp) to the local communities, i.e. a limited, but important phase of the integration process, when - after a period of massive investment of resources lasting an average of 18 months - the refugees begin their entry into Danish society, hence a phase when, from the viewpoint of the receiving authorities, the refugees should be able to stand on their own feet and be eligible for the same payments and have the same obligations as national and other immigrant categories. # The first study takes a short-range view of the integration process. It seeks to shed light on the problems of communication and co-ordination facing the systems which carry out the daily work of integrating the refugees into Danish society. # Until 1984 only a small number of municipalities - primarily greater cities - have had refugees on public assistance and consequently gained knowledge about this kind of practical social work. The great increase in the number of refugees made it necessary to change the geographical distribution policies. Many local authorities without any previous knowledge had to be involved in the work, i.e. the attempt to distribute the refugees evenly across the country. # A key argument for insisting that this particular phase in the process deserves special attention from a socio-political standpoint has to do with the hopes attached to it. As previously mentioned, it is expected - though nowhere explicitly stated - that the main obstacles to starting a life with about the same type and range of assistance accorded to the country's own citizens have by then been cleared away. These hopes may be somewhat summarily expressed as an anticipation that, following the 18-month integration period, the refugees will on the whole claim the same social services in the local communities as do the regular rehabilitees. # A further argument for focusing on the transfer from one support system to another has to do with the social conditions during the period of the large intake of spontaneous refugees. Despite a rise in employment from the autumn of 1982 to the autumn of 1984 the unemployment rate was still considerable. With regard to various educational opportunities the period was similarly characterized by a lack of resources. Particularly the parallel or even greater shortage in the housing sector was certain to confront the local communities with even bigger and more difficult problems in receiving the refugees than would have been the case under more favourable social conditions. # Finally, one more factor should be emphasized. Social work - be it the integration of refugees or the solution to a variety of other problems - receives an indispensable lift through personal involvement and public support. Many years' experience in integrating refugees into Danish society has made it clear that without a wide popular support the chances of succeeding in the integration efforts are greatly reduced. In that respect, too, the period of the large intake of refugees was rather unfavourable. The climate facing the newcomers was much cooler than that experienced by earlier refugee groups. # The study consists of two parts. One part (the one which is expected to be transferred to the DDA and which forms the basis of the information in this study description) is based on a questionnaire addressed to the social service departments in 103 local communities which had had refugees under their care during the period 1 January to 30 September 1986. Another part-study was carried out by means of qualitative interviews in four selected local communities (Helsingør, Herning, Odense, and Nykøbing-Falster). Its purpose was to describe and analyse the 'transfer' in its total setting, including local conditions in connection with the work of handing over and receiving the refugees. Staff as well as management representatives in both systems were interviewed. A small number of refugees and a group of people connected with the local refugee work were also interviewed

Variable Groups

Full Title

Refugees in Denmark, 1986

Parallel Title

Integration af flygtninge, 1986

Identification Number


Bibliographic Citation

Refugees in Denmark, 1986, Danish Data Archive, DDA1356, version: 1.0.0, 10.5279/DK-SA-DDA-1356

List of Keywords

Geographic Coverage

Descriptive Text


Descriptive Text


Unit of Analysis



Time limits, Municipal social service departments.

Kind of Data

survey data


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