Inviting foreign workforce without humane immigration laws will be another decade of miseries and frustrations

Internationals at a demonstration against the anti-immigrants rules out side Danish Parliament. Photo: Raisul Jhilan

Danish companies have been complaining of labour shortages over the years. The Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) in their 2018 survey outlined that 6 out of 10 Danish companies struggle to find employees. 60% of Danish companies in need of new employees have difficulty finding them says the report. The April 2021 report of Boston Consulting Group revealed that there will be nearly 100,000 employees shortage by 2030 for the green jobs in Denmark. Danfoss, a leading Danish manufacturer of green products is already struggling to provide manpower to produce the company’s green products.

“It has become clearly more difficult, and we are already fighting today to get the best candidates. We need to be very active and proactive to ensure the right competencies at all levels,” says Danfoss CEO Kim Fausing. Similarly, The Economic Council of the Labour Movement (Arbejderbevægelsens Erhvervsråd AE) has also emphasized in their last year publication that Denmark will be missing 99,000 skilled workers by 2030 and plans needs to be placed now to counter these shortages.

Dansk Energi, an interest organization for energy companies in Denmark which has more than 60 member companies from the energy sector, also anticipate that there will be massive labour shortages of skilled workers if we have to reduce CO2 by 70 per cent by 2030

Read more: Danmark risikerer at mangle 100.000 grønne job i 2030: “Det vil være decideret tragisk”

Welfare is another sector where there is an acute demand for labour. The Association of Public Employees (Forbundet af Offenligt Ansatte FOA) in their 2020 report warned that there will be a shortage of 40,000 Social and Health (SOSU) workers by 2029. On the other hand, the Danish Nurses’ Council (Dansk Sygeplejeråd) anticipated in 2018 that there will be a shortage of 6000 nurses by 2025.

Read more: Lack of SOSU employees is a bomb under the welfare state

Among other measures, various organizations have suggested, inviting foreign labour. Today, foreign labour comprises a little over 10% of the total labour force in Denmark. According to Dansk Erhverv, the international workforce has raised GDP by 200 billion DKK alone in 2020, corresponding to 8.5 per cent of GDP. Considering the shortage of labour and foreign labour contributions, Danish Employment Minister Peter Hummelgaard, like the business community, showed his concerns and announces that new political efforts will be made to overcome the shortage.

In her new year speech, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen also pointed to the labour shortages and apart from other measures, she shows her enthusiasm for foreign labour. In the debate on the government’s reform proposal, the business community has wanted it to be easier to get labour from outside. We are willing to discuss that says the Prime Minister in her new year speech. Similarly, other political parties like Venstre and Radikale Venstre has also been advocating for inviting foreign labour.

Read more: Foreign colleagues contribute DKK 13 billion to public finances

Denmark has introduced numerous schemes over the years for attracting foreign labour like the pay limit scheme, green card scheme (abandoned in 2016), positive list, establishment card for international students, etc. Despite all these schemes, Denmark still cannot attract enough international workforce today. It is because Denmark has fallen significantly as a career destination for foreign employees. According to the Boston Consulting Group BCG report, Denmark was in 13th place in 2014, while in 2020 it was 25th on the foreign labour attractiveness list. Today Denmark is less attractive than the neighboring Germany, Sweden, and Norway who compete for the same foreign labour for their green transition and economic boost add the BCG report.

The question is why Denmark is continuously falling significantly as a career destination for foreign labour. There are quite a few reasons.

Strick visa requirements

To begin with, Denmark has listed strict requirements for obtaining a work permit in the first place. Pay limit scheme, for example, demands several requirements from both employers and foreign employees. Foreign professionals must have a job offer with an annual income of 448,000 DKK (2022 level) which is close to impossible in many cases. Similarly, the employer must fulfil several requirements before they can invite any foreign labour on a pay limit scheme which makes it difficult for employers to hire internationals. Positive list jobs ask for another set of requirements which again makes hurdles in hunting and attracting foreign labour.

Immigration Laws – inhumane and retroactive

It is a lifetime decision to migrate to a new country especially when you have a family. One must plan for at least the next five years while moving to a new country as a foreign employee. This includes how one will be treated by the immigration laws now and in the future. Considering immigration laws, Denmark has been in news around the world not for good reasons. Whether that be the last government minister Inger Støjberg controversial celebrations over strict immigration laws or current Social Democrats tough immigrations laws of striping Syrian refugees residency permits and new discriminatory measures regarding Danish citizenship, Denmark has it all to fall on the list of one of the most unattractive countries in Europe for the foreign workforce.

You have to spare at least 10 years of your life to settle in Denmark and that also when everything goes as planned and under current rules says one green card holder who has been struggling for the past one decade to navigate with the strict and unreasonable immigration laws.

Another factor in Danish immigration laws is that they are mostly applied retroactively i.e., laws proposed and passed today are applied from a past date. Katja Taastrøm who was expected to become Danish citizen last year but because of new citizenship rules applied retroactively, she must wait for at least 6 more years. Under the new rules, one must work full time for three and half years in the last 4 years while education does not count as work. Speaking to DR Katja said I am currently studying and will graduate in mid 2022. After that, I should work for three and a half years. This means I will be able to apply again in 2026. Depending on how long the case processing time is, we will arrive by 2027 or 2028 before I can become a Danish citizen. And that also if I do not get sick, lose my job, or completely new demands arise, she says. I feel more unwanted in this country than I did the first two years I was here, she says.

Read more: ‘It’s pure mockery’: Katja’s education stretches legs for her dream of becoming Danish

Bilal Yousaf, a vet and biologist, is another victim of Danish immigration rules. He was told to leave Denmark at a time when he needed support the most. Bilal lost his arm while working on a machine to earn the required annual income for visa extension back in 2015. Later, he could not continue to work and show the required annual income for visa extension, therefore, was told to leave Denmark which was catastrophic for him. Katie Larsen, a bio-based designer and Architectural Technologist left Denmark due to strict immigration rules after living 5 years in Denmark. There are thousands of such stories of miseries and frustrations.

With the new discussions about inviting foreign labour, many believe it will be the start of a new era of miseries and frustrations especially considering the rise of the far right in Denmark.

Measures to attract foreign workforce and prevent miseries and violations

According to a 2017 Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science assessment, 80 per cent of foreign graduates from Danish universities leave Denmark within two years of their graduation and that number has increased now. A similar story prevails regarding foreign workforce career destination choices. To bring Denmark back on top of the foreign workforce career destination list and prevent further miseries and violations of immigrants’ rights, the following measures must be taken into considerations while inviting foreign workforce.

  1. The requirements for obtaining a work permit should be easier with less bureaucratic procedures.
  2. The annual income requirement for obtaining visa and later extension should be realistic. For example, for the pay limit scheme, the income requirement should be reduced to 348,000 DKK from the current unreasonably high 448,000 DKK.
  3. Special positive list for doctors, nurses and green jobs should be introduced with a quick response rate.

Even if all these ease measures are granted, foreign professionals might not, at first, dare to come to Denmark or leave after a few years if humane immigration rules are not introduced. These measure could be;

  1. Foreign professionals with a job offer should be given a permanent residency permit at their arrival in Denmark just like in Canada and other countries.
  2. In case, foreign professionals are given a time-definite visa then the rules for their visa extension, permanent residency permit and citizenship should be mentioned on their first visa offer letter and those mentioned rules should prevail until the applicant has not gotten Danish citizenship.
  3. Retroactive implementation of rules must not take place at all. Eva Ersbøll, senior researcher at the Department of Human Rights calls the retroactive application of rules as against the basic rules of law principles and the Ministry of Justice guidance on good legal quality.

If these measures are not considered while inviting foreign workforce, it will be the beginning of another era of miseries, tragedies, violations, and modern slavery.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.

Denmark new tighten citizenship requirements are discriminatory and racist

In June 2019, Mattias Tesfaye (Social Democrat) took over as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration from the former Liberal politician Inger Støjberg. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

After four long years of Venstre and far right parties government (2015-2019), Danes thought it would be a breathe of fresh air after the Danish Social Democrats took over the office in 2019 but it gets even worse. From introducing new tough immigrations laws to striping Syrian refugees residency permits and now these new strict and discriminatory measures in the form of the new agreement regarding Danish citizenship makes Social Democrats even worse. Some experts and politicians have called Danish Social Democrats as the new right wing populist party.

Already Denmark has one of the tightest immigration laws in the world but with these new measures it might become the most discriminatory and racists. The new agreement proposes tightening of the rules in the following areas where some points are specifically proposed to target groups like Muslims and non-western immigrants.

Read more: Ministry press release and new agreement on tightening the Danish citizenship requirements.

Racial discrimination: Muslim and non-western countries applicants

The new controversial agreement includes among other things the separation of danish citizenship applicants into muslims countries named as MENAP (Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan plus Turkey), non-western countries which might include South Asian, South American and other countries and the western countries applicants. As the Danish citizenship applicants names are tabled in the parliament after over a year of scrutiny for voting, the names are currently arranged alphabetically. The new agreement proposes to separate applicants on the basis of their original nationality. Although this thought was first coined by the extreme far right party The New Right but despite their absence in this collaboration, their idea is actualised. The reason behind this idea is to probably vote separately on each bill and reject muslim applicants list in the parliament. This will be even contrary to the Danish constitution.

Read more: Partier vil tildele statsborgerskab på en ny måde

Residency Requirement might become 11 years

Denmark current rules dictate that one has to have lived 9 years before one can be eligible to apply for Danish Citizenship. Although this rule is not changed but as one of the pre-requisite of applying for Danish citizenship is to have permanent residency which can be availed after almost 9 years of residence. The new agreements states that one has to have Permanent residency for 2 years before one can be eligible to apply for citizenship. As obtaining permanent residency permit itself takes almost 9 years so the citizenship residency requirement will automatically reach 11 years. This will make Denmark the only European country to set this highest residency requirement.

Employment Requirement

The new agreement proposes an employment requirement for to be Danish nationals. The parties have agreed to set a 3 and half years full time work requirement in last 4 years before one can be eligible to apply for Danish Citizenship. This will be one of the most illogical and problematic requirement especially for young applicants. It will compel young students to leave their education and work full time for 3 and half years in last 4 years before they can be eligible to apply for Danish citizenship. This requirement will also force young people born and raised in Denmark, studied in Danish school and been an active part of Danish society, to leave their studies after they turn 18 and start full time work. Else, they will have to wait for at least 5 years as first they to finish their education and then work full time for at least 3 and half years. It will only make the young people suffer who have already been part of the Danish society since their birth.

New Citizenship Test

The current test contains a total of 40 questions covering Danish history from 7th century to date, politics, economics, societal values and norms, culture, lifestyle and current affairs. The new agreement had proposed to add 5 more questions on Danish values. These 5 questions will be about freedom of expression, equality and especially about religion. The agreement has emphasised that to pass the test one has to get 4 correct out of these 5 questions. The critics argue that these questions are specifically agreed to target muslims and ask questions as to choose either Islam or Danish values. In case this become a reality, it will also violate the Danish constitution which guarantee freedom of speech and religion.

Citizenship Interview

The four parties agreement include the introduction of Citizenship interview. This will be the first of its kind in Denmark history. The parties agreed upon preparing a statement within a year as to how to conduct citizenship interviews. The idea behind the citizenship interview is again to assess individual applicants as how far one has adopted Danish values contrary to their religious believes. It was also first brought by far right party to target muslims applicants as to judge them on their religious believes. It will at least take a year more before citizenship interviews will be actually introduced if the agreement becomes a bill and pass from parliament.

Read more: Integration handler ikke om at bygge bro, siger Venstre

Prison sentence strips an applicant from Danish Citizenship for ever

The new agreement will make it impossible for those who has be sentenced to prison that might be conditional or unconditional and even for a day. The right groups argue that this will take the chance of a better life from a person who has once committed a crime but later got education and contribute to society in a better way. This will also violate the Universal Human Rights Conventions. Critics argue that with this requirement Denmark will go back 100 years as back in 1915, Denmark gave the right to vote to prisoners and now it is taking even the citizenship rights from former prisoners.

Read more: Denmark announces new tightening of citizenship rules

The new agreement has shown leniency at one place where they have agreed to allow South Schleswig residence to become Danish citizen if their children has been attending Danish schools in South Schleswig, Germany. But the agreement also has been discriminatory here as it has used the word Danish-minded residence only. It means that if a Turk or other muslim residence of South Schleswig wishes to apply for Danish citizenship even after fulfilling all the requirement, they would be rejected as they would be labelled as non Danish-minded residence.

Despite the left Block (Red Block) leading party, Social Democrats went on to the right wing blue block parties like Venstre, Conservative and Liberal Alliance to sign an agreement on tightening the citizenship laws leaving behind the support parties. This shows how desperate Social democrat party is to attract the right wing voters especially for the upcoming municipal elections in November. All the three support parties to the Social Democrat government i.e. Enhedslisten, Radikale Venstre and Socialist Peoples Party have shown their discontent to the agreement. They have called the agreement an illogical, discriminatory and shameful.

Read more: Eksperter: Ny aftale om statsborgerskab er ’stærkt bekymrende’

Although the parties to the agreement make it a clear majority to pass the probable bill but if the support parties to Social democrats take firm stand on the issue so it might not get though. In case the support parties threaten Social democrats with no confidence vote which will result in dismissal of the current government and ultimately an end to the agreement at least for a while. Are the support parties ready to take the big step and turn over the Social democrat government? It will only be a matter of time before we know.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.

Why Danish Parliament should consider Education as Full Time Job as part of the new bill?

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Chrissy Patton is a graduate of Aalborg University, Denmark.

According to the Ministry of Higher Education and Science Denmark, 80% of the foreign graduates from Danish universities leave Denmark after two years of their graduation. It is probably because of the uncertainty around settling down in Denmark. One of the recent studies of Aarhus University Professor found that immigration rules in Denmark are changed after every 3 months . Frequent changes and constantly tightening the requirements for permanent residency create a basic sense of uncertainty and lack of predictability. It not only makes it difficult to live a normal life but people who think they are on the right track towards getting permanent residency find that they face yet another new set of requirements.

Read more: Denmark concerned about the high proportion of foreign students who leave after graduation

In the pre-2016 scenario, education was counted as full time work. International students, reunified spouses of Danes and their children were eligible to apply for Permanent Residency by showing that either they have been working or studying in Denmark. But the laws were changed in 2016. Education was thereafter, no more counted as full time work. Thus International students, reunified spouses and their children would either leave the country or stop studying and have to take unskilled jobs to fulfil employment requirement before they can apply for permanent residency.

Here is how immigration laws have been effecting these groups and adversely effecting Denmark and the integration of these new Danes.

International Students

The elimination of education has directly affected international students. An international student roughly pays a fee of 80,000 per year to a Danish University. Apart from that, a student works up to 80 hours a month and pay taxes. Chrissy Patton, an American student in Denmark who graduated from Aalborg University in January 2020, is now on an establishment card. Although I’ve graduated with my Master’s degree from a Danish university, have lived here for the last five years, passed the Danish language exam PD3 and have a full time job, I still won’t qualify for permanent residency anytime soon as I have to work full time for a minimum of 3.5 years before I can be eligible to even apply, says Chrissy Patton.

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Chrissy Patton during her graduation at Aalborg University, Denmark.

I will likely have to rely on the pay limit scheme in order to meet the 3.5 year requirement, but that means I should have a permanent job contract with a salary of more than 436.000 DKK a year (and this amount increases every year) which is extremely difficult for a new graduate, adds Chrissy Patton. International students in such cases decide to leave Denmark despite they are well integrated, highly qualified, have full time job just because they could not extend their stay by not showing few more thousands krones of income a year. If education is counted as full time work they could not only stay in Denmark but also get permanent residency and focus on their career which ultimately contribute to the Danish society and economy.

Reunified Spouses

Thousands of Danes are married to individuals from out side of EU. They join their spouses after fulfilling number of requirements of the strict and controversial family reunification laws. Thereafter, these spouses have to fulfil individually all the requirements to get permanent residency. They have to either work full time for 3,5 continuous years after graduation which means a wait of 8 years after coming to the country (that also if they get full time job and work without any break during these years) or leave studying and start unskilled odd job. When they leave education it not only stop their personal growth but also Denmark ends up with unskilled labour force. Another International student of Architectural Technology, graduate of KEA Denmark, Katie Larsen came to Denmark in 2015 from the States. She is now married to a Dane. She has represented Denmark at Dutch Design Week 2019, with a project rooted in Danish history and culture, at a conference for the world’s best design graduates. She could not apply for permanent residency as education is not counted as full time work so she applied for family reunification.

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Katie Larsen while presenting her seaweed project at KEA Denmark

Katie lost her job after the corona crisis and thereafter, have to leave Denmark with her Dane husband to study in The Netherlands and come back after few years under EU laws. I was two months away from completing my mandatory integration contract with Slagelse Kommune, a contract that required me to work for at least a year to prove my “self-sufficiency”. But then I lost my job due to corona crisis and my any hope of applying for permanent residence in the next 4 years has also been ruined says Katie. In case education was counted as full time work just like before 2016, I would have gotten permanent residency by now. I decided to leave Denmark to take a masters degree in the Netherlands and come back under EU laws. This would take almost the exact same amount of years as if you stay in Denmark to get a masters degree. The big difference is if you stay in Denmark, and lose your job for more than 6 months, you start over again and have to wait another 4 years. So it punishes you to stay in Denmark even if you are contributing says Katie.

Reunified Young Children

The children of reunified international workers is another group of people who suffer because of the strict permanent residency laws. When a child of foreign worker join their family at the age of lets say 14 and their parents could not get permanent residency while they are under 18, then these youngsters have to fulfil all the permanent residency requirements by their own. They either have to leave their education to get permanent residency in next 4 years or wait for another 8 to 10 years before they can get permanent residency. Their life is totally uncertain before they have gotten permanent residency.

Maya Young, who came to Denmark when she was 14 under her father work visa. She is now 17 and studying at a folkeskole in Hundested. Her father will still not be eligible to apply for permanent residency permit by next year and she will turn 18. This means that after she turns 18, she will have to fulfil all the permanent residency requirements by her own.

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Maya Young (middle) with her parents in Denmark

Maya says, If education counts as full time work so I can apply for my permanent residency permit next year as I have been studying ever since I came to Denmark almost 3 years ago. This will bring calm in my life and I will be able to focus on my studies and career. Now she has to either leave education which she does not want or wait for another 8 to 10 years before she can complete her education and work full time for 3,5 continuous years to be eligible to apply for permanent residency. During these years her future in Denmark will totally be uncertain which will effect her studies and career.

The current bill at the Danish parliament argue to include education as full time work. The bill is presented by Radikale Venstre party MPs and have support from Enhedslisten, Socialist Folkeparty SP, Alternativet and Frie Grønne.

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The new bill (By Radikale Venstre) proposes that education should again be counted as full time employment.

Danish politicians must consider these young highly qualified individuals lives before voting on this bill. Education if counted as full time work will only benefit Danish society and economy.

Naqeeb Khan (left) and D. Valentino (right) with Danish MP Andreas Steenberg (Radikale Venstre) at the Danish Parliament after a meeting regarding education to be counted again as full time work.

Written by: Naqeeb Khan

Constitution Day is a celebration of political and human rights for all. Is Denmark neglecting them?

Christiansborg Slotsplads. Photo from Jyllands Posten

Following the death of Christian VIII on January 20th 1848, his son, Frederik VII became Denmark’s new king. Frederik VII adopted the idea of making Denmark a constitutional monarchy and became known for his motto “the people’s love, my strength”.

On June 5th 1849, the King signed Denmark’s Constitution (Grundlov) to replace the King’s Law (Kongeloven) and, in doing so, became the last King of Denmark to rule as an absolute monarch.

Since then, June 5th has been celebrated as Constitution Day in the Scandinavian country. The occasion is commonly commemorated by political rallies, seminars and outdoor parties which this year are mostly postponed after the corona crisis.

The original Constitution on display at the Danish parliament. Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix

In his book “Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens to Today”, author Scott Gordon states the fundamental aim of a constitution is to divide power into various organisations or institutional entities in a way that ensures the protection of the interests and liberties of the citizens, including those that may be part of a minority.

Denmark’s constitution provides for just the same: the interests of each citizen are sheltered by dividing power in a balanced way and providing freedom of speech, expression, association and religion. 

But in recent years the political developments, including the banning the Islamic burqa in public, ghetto plans, strict immigration and family reunification rules, neglecting the immigrants in the corona package etc have been criticised by various national and international organisation like The United Nations, Amnesty International for not being in accord with Human rights conventions.

Amnesty International Europe Director Gauri Van Gulik said regarding the banning of burqa that if the intention of this law was to protect women’s rights, it fails abjectly. Instead, the law criminalises women for their choice of clothing.

One of the most controversial bill recently passed is the Ghetto plan. Three out of five mentioned criteria is enough to declare an area as Ghetto. These criteria includes the discriminatory clause that an area with over 50% Non-western immigrant or descendent of non-western immigrant population must be listed as Ghetto. Once an area is declared as Ghetto, than the residents must fulfil number of conditions to continue their residency in the area otherwise must leave the area. According to Mandag Morgen some 11,000 people will have to leave their homes over the coming years as a result of the so-called ghetto package. The UN, human rights organisations and various NGOs has called the package a discriminatory and must end. In a report, the UN calls the Danish ghetto list discriminatory and calls directly to drop the ghetto definition because it discriminates against non-Western citizens.

Read more: FN dumper ghettopakken, fordi den diskriminerer ikke-vestlige borgere

Similarly, the Danish government has been criticised for not insuring the protection of one’s family life, with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights cited. Strict Danish rules on family reunification risk violating the rights of immigrants. While the than immigration minister Inger Støjberg celebrating the strict rules with a cake said, going to the “limits of conventions” was “a risk I’m willing to take”. While many believe that she has crossed those limits.

Inger Støjberg celebrating strict immigration rules with a cake. Photo facebook

Denmark is a signatory to various European, United Nations and other international treaties including the European Convention on Human Rights treaty of 1953, the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN’s 1966 International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

This not only means that Danish laws must guarantee human and political rights domestically but that Denmark must also work along other nations to ensure these rights around the world.

In June 1945, the Charter of the United Nations (UN) was signed in San Francisco by 51 founding countries, including Denmark. Photo: UN Photo/Rosenberg

Whether it is the recent murder of the African American George Floyd, the continuous discrimination and brutalities against Black people in The US, the genocide of Rohingya people by the Myanmar government, The Chinese oppression in Hong Kong, atrocities against the Pashtuns by Pakistan, the Kashmiris human right violations by both Pakistan and India or the Israeli aggression and occupation in Palestine, Denmark must not only condemn but make sure that the human and political rights of these oppressed communities are not violated.

Denmark, a founding and essential member of the UN, is bound to seek that the right of life, freedom and fair trial is provided to people around the world. Meanwhile, the Danish laws must not discriminate against people of a specific ethnicity, culture, language, religion and identity here at home.

We may celebrate Constitution Day with rallies, seminars and outdoor parties, but celebration will truly be due when every single law is in accord with constitution and human rights conventions.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.

No mercy for foreign workers who lost their jobs amid Corona crisis: Work or Leave Denmark, Social Democrat replied

Social Democrats leave no option for immigrants after corona crisis. Work even if you are corona positive or leave the country. Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Foreign workers are supposed to show an annual income and continuous work if they desire to continue their stay in Denmark or apply for family reunification or permanent residency permit. After the Corona crisis, thousands of workers were fired from their jobs and thus are unable to fulfil these requirements. These laid off workers are not even eligible for Government Corona help package. Those who are getting the compensation are also not fulfilling the income requirement as the compensation amount is much less than the required income.

Read more: Denmark migrant workers face another battle amid COVID-19 with mandatory work despite economic lockdown and fear of corona infection

Since the start of Corona crisis, foreign workers have been asking for a relief as many lost their jobs. Right after the lockdown was announced, immigrants wrote to the ruling party, Social Democrats MPs and Ministry of Immigration and Integration to announce a dispensation of work and income requirement for visa extension, family reunification and Permanent residency applications. Immigrants also wrote to other political parties in the parliament like Enhedslisten, Radikale Venstre, Venstre Party, SP and Alternative. Enhedslisten and Radikale venstre came out loud to support foreign workers and asked the ruling Social Democrats and Minister Mattias Tesfaye to waive income and work requirements during this lockdown.

Read more: R og EL vil tilgodese udlændinge i corona-klemme

In the beginning, Minister of Immigration and Integration replied to MPs request that he does not see any logic for changing the rules. Immigrants thus started an online petition to ask for dispensation of work and income requirements during these corona crisis for visa extension and Permanent residency application. The petition has almost 2200 signatories. The petition explained as how foreign workers have been hit by corona crisis and thus can not fulfil the income and work requirements.

Read more: Nearly 2200 join call for Denmark to suspend work permit rules

With all the appeals from various rights groups, political parties and thousands of immigrants, Social Democrat MPs and ministry of immigration and integration continue to show no mercy to foreign workers despite this global pandemic. They are told to continue work and show required income despite the corona lockdown.

This means that immigrants who desire to stay in Denmark must continue work and show income even if they are corona positive. Immigrants who have been living in Denmark and fulfilling every requirement will only be sent back home because they are laid off from work due to corona crisis. Though corona crisis has indiscriminately hit everyone but immigrant workers are the one who are hit twice, once by coronavirus and than by the Danish Govt.

In a written reply to Naqeeb Khan request for dispensation of income and work requirements during these crisis, ministry of immigration and integration writes, “Dispensation from this income requirement due to the COVID-19 situation cannot be granted, even if you have been sent home without salary and laid off from your job.”

Here is the complete reply of Ministry

The above reply is to Naqeeb Khan first email to ministry which he sent on 19th of March. Later on 27th April another email long the online petition was sent to ministry and number of parliament members. Ministry is yet to reply to immigrants online petition.

Over 1700 signatories to Tesfaye: Suspend income and work requirements for immigrants amid Corona Crisis

Immigrants in Denmark write to Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye
after corona crisis. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen / Ritzau Scanpix

Dispensation of Income and Work requirements for Denmark Immigrants during Corona Lockdown

Dear Mattias Tesfaye,

COVID-19 crisis has on one side caused a huge human and economic loss but on the other side, it has also united us as human beings as we all are in this together. Denmark surely has suffered a lot during these crisis but our unity and helping spirit will keep us alive and prosperous. 

Although COVID-19 has indiscriminately hit everyone, whether local or immigrant but immigrants are the one who have to face another battle amid COVID-19. They have to face the strict immigration laws and earn required income and work continuously. One might justify these strict rules in normal circumstances but asking for the same level of income and work despite COVID-19 crisis and lockdown is unfair and irrational.

These immigrants have to show an annual income and continuous work for visa extension, Permanent Residency and Family Reunification applications. During these corona crisis many of them have lost their jobs, while others have been told to stay home. Thus it is impossible for many to show the required income and continuous work.

It is commendable how the Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen with the help of government support parties like Enhedslisten, Radikale Venstre and SF, showed leadership and took initiatives that has minimised the damage to human lives and economy. We also appreciate government financial support to companies and employees but that still do not solve those immigrants’ problems who are on pay limit scheme, green card scheme or applying for Permanent Residency or family reunification or EU students who could not fulfil the work requirement thus told to return back all SU amount.

Why Government Corona Package is not helping these immigrants:

The Corona package to employees has a limit and conditions. These conditions and limit has cut the last hope of immigrants. Corona Help Package could not help these immigrants because;

Workers are fired: One of the conditions of Corona Help package is that it can be received only by those who are not fired from work. Hundreds of these immigrants have been fired from jobs thus they can not avail the Government corona compensation. Especially, tourism, hotel and restaurant industry has fired most of their employees. It is thus impossible for these employees to earn the required income and show continuous work for visa extension or Permanent Residency and family reunification applications. In some cases, the companies have filed bankruptcy and employees have even not got March salary. 

Part time job holders: Most of the part time jobs holders are straight away fired from work after corona crisis. Many of immigrants were doing two part time jobs due to various reasons and after the lockdown they lost both of their jobs straight away. Thus they are not getting any compensations from Corona Help package.

Lower Compensation than required income: Although there are many immigrants who get the compensation from Government Corona Help Package but the amount of compensation is much less than the required annual income for visa extension or other applications. Thus these immigrants still have to suffer as they can not fulfil the income requirement and finding a new job is almost impossible in these crisis. 

Commission based jobs: There are many immigrants who are working in retail and commission based businesses. Their salary is based on basic pay plus commission on the sales. Corona Compensation to these employees is given on their basic pay which is why their income is much less than the required income. 

Over 1730 Signatories asking for Dispensation of Income and Work Requirements

Due to this stressful situation, we collected signatures through an online petition asking for dispensation of income and work requirements for visa extension, Permanent residency and family reunification during these crisis. More than 1730 people have signed the petition until now.

Link to Online Petition: Click here

Solution and Recommendations: 

There can be quite a simple solution which will help thousands of immigrants breathe peacefully during this global pandemic. Government can suspend these income and work requirements for visa extension, Permanent Residency and family reunification applicants during these crisis lets say from March to June just like the suspension of 225 hours of work per year rule for Danish national getting cash help and the handshake requirement for new citizens. This will give a fair chance to these immigrants to fulfil the requirements when the lockdown is over. These immigrants will thus be able to focus on their daily life and safeguard themselves and their families from coronavirus and its aftermath.

Best Regards

Over 1720 signatories

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Tesfaye to Danish Muslims: “It (Ramadan) must NOT mean an explosion in Corona infections”

Minister Mattias Tesfaye to Muslims Den (Ramadan) må IKKE betyde en eksplosion i smittede. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

While the world leader pass Ramadan greetings and corona guidelines in a way that keep everyone included but Immigration and Integration Minister of Denmark Mattias Tesfaye will post the sensational news headlines with divisive words like “Den må IKKE betyde en eksplosion i smittede” meaning It (Ramadan) must NOT mean an explosion in corona infected cases.

Read more: Tesfaye i opråb til danske muslimer

There has been reports that ethic minorities like African American and Latinos in the US have recorded higher number of corona cases. While explaining the reasons behind the disproportionate number of cases of corona for the people of colour in the States, Mother Jones writes “well, there are the more acute reasons (black and Latino people are being put at risk more in their day-to-day lives) and then there are the structural reasons (long-standing economic and health disparities between white people and people of colour). Black and Latino American accounts for more than 60 percent of the workforce of The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in NYC and MTA employees is hit high in NYC. As per the New York Times report of 8th April, bus and subway workers have been hit hard by the coronavirus: 41 dead and more than 6,000 either diagnosed with Covid-19 or self-quarantining because they have symptoms that suggest an infection.

Read more: Covid-19’s devastating toll on black and Latino Americans, in one chart

The figures in some of the mainstream media are presented in a way that link the corona cases more with minorities religious or cultural traits than other realities. Headlines depict minorities as they not following guidelines while ignoring the fact that these immigrants are mostly working in the most vulnerable fields like delivery, transportation, warehouses, grocery stores etc.

Read more: Indvandrere med coronavirus fylder hospital: Nu kræver overlæger klar besked

In Denmark the scenario is not very different. There are jobs like driving, delivery services, taxi, transportation, warehouses etc where majority of workers are from minority background. In an online supermarket warehouse located near Copenhagen, there are about 500 packers and other staff working. Around 80% of them are immigrants. The other 20% are either working in offices or from home. These hundreds of workers work in a much crowded place especially after the lockdown as online orders has increased and more employees are hired. There are now more than 6 corona positive cases in the warehouse but workers are continuously told to perform higher and some are fired because they could not perform 100 % despite the fact that the work place is too crowded. Similarly, other fields like taxi drivers where majority are from minority background are more exposed to corona infection.

The Ramadan guidelines regarding coronavirus are praised by muslims and these guidelines have already been followed by Mosques as they are closed since the lockdown has been announced. The issue is linking higher cases with religion and ethic background at a time when muslims holy month of Ramadan is starting without mentioning the other realities like work professions and structural imbalances. This makes it look like minorities are not following the guidelines.

The health authorities in Denmark are planning to issue the coronavirus infected cases data with regard to ethnic background. It might came out that minorities do have higher number of cases but it should not be used as a right wing tool to blame the cultural and religious disparities rather it could be taken as warning as state has failed to provide an equal standing to minorities. It could also be seen as immigrants do take risks to provide services to people even if they have to risk their lives.

By Naqeeb Khan

EU students continue to receive bills to pay back SU after they lost their jobs amid Corona crisis

Boglarka Makari, an EU student told to return SU DKK 16,424 after she could not continue work amid Corona crisis. Photo: Boglarka.

Denmark State Education Support called Statens Uddannelsesstøtte (SU) is a education grant for home and EU students studying in Danish educational institutions. EU students can be eligible for SU if they show equal status to Danish citizens under the EU laws. They can show equal status by working 10 hours per week while they are studying in Denmark. One of the conditions is that they have to work 10 hours per week for a continuous period of 10 weeks. In case they could not show continuous 10 weeks work, they will be told to return back all the SU money.

Read more: SU as a worker or a self-employed person under EU law

Boglarka Makari, an EU student has been receiving SU after she started working in January, 2020. Boglarka came to Denmark in August 2019 when she got acceptance in Service, Hospitality and Tourism Management program at UCN Aalborg. She brought all her savings so that she could focus on her studies while looking for a part time job. It was difficult to find a job and I consumed all my savings and I have to call my family back in Hungary for help during the last months of 2019 say Boglarka.

After five months of trying, Boglarka found a job in a restaurant in Aalborg in January. I was so relieved that I finally got a job and I didn’t have to worry whether I would have money for the next month rent or not said Boglarka. She was then eligible for SU under the EU law as she started a job. She was fulfilling the number of hours requirement and got SU for the first time for February 2020 at the end of January and similarly she got SU for March.

At the beginning of February, Corona virus crisis started hitting economies around the world and at the end of February Denmark also saw economic downfall. Hotels and Restaurants were first to suffer the most and many restaurants started firing employees. I was called less for work even in February but I managed to work for the required number of hours for February says Boglarka. After the Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced the lockdown, I received a message from my employer that I am not required any more. As a part time foreign worker and my employer circumstances, I could not avail the Govt Corona Help Package nor I am allowed to take any other sort of benefits says Boglarka.

Read more: Sad and Unrealistic: EU students could not work amid Corona lockdown and are now told to Pay back SU money

Boglarka received a letter from Styrelsen for Institutioner og Uddannelsesstøtte along a bill of DKK 16,424 at the end of March. Boglarka was told to return all the SU amount she received for February, March and April. The reason mentioned in the letter is that she could not fulfil the 10 hours per week rule for a continuous period of 10 weeks. My life went up side down when I received the letter that I need to return all the SU amount i.e. DKK 16.424. Though the updates on SU official website did state that there will be special consideration regarding the SU amid COVID-19 but Borlarka says she has been treated otherwise. Borlarka have filed an appeal but she says that many others students appeal has been rejected so she is afraid that she will also be not entertained.

A bill of DKK 16,424 that Boglarka, an EU student is told to pay back after she could not continue her work amid Corona crisis.

Empathy and Understanding required

After the lockdown, Denmark went to a standstill position where business were shutdown and people were told to stay home. In these circumstances, it is obvious that no body would work and neither can anyone show any number of hours of work. These EU students have to stay home without work. It will be irrational and unfair to demand number of hours of work or income from these studnets.

If Danish government understand the situation and show some empathy, solution might be quite simple. As government has announced to pause 225 hours of work per year rule for Danish national getting cash help from March to June, and suspended the handshake requirement for new citizens during the corona crisis, similarly 10 hours work rule for EU students can also be suspended during this crisis.

In these times of uncertainty, all I’m asking for is understanding and empathy towards these students. We should be socially distant, but still together in heart” says Boglarka. She believes it will only be fair if Govt freeze the 10 hours per week work rule for the period from March to June. This will give EU students the chance to start their work again and focus on studies without worrying of paying back the SU amount.

Corona after shocks in Denmark! An EU student told to pay back DKK 52,866 “SU” Student Grant after she lost job amid Corona crisis

Blanka Papp, an EU Student received a bill of DKK 52,866 from Danish Education authority to pay back the Student grants money SU after she could not show continuous work amid Corona Crisis. Photo: Blanka Papp

While Corona is getting under control in Denmark and more businesses are opening but it might be the start of another epidemic for immigrants in Denmark. It has certainly started for European students as Blanka Papp, an EU student received a bill of DKK 52,866 from education authorities in Denmark after she lost her job amid corona crisis.

EU students in Danish educational institutions can be eligible for Denmark State Education Support called Statens Uddannelsesstøtte (SU) if they show equal status to Danish citizens under the EU laws. They can show equal status by working 10 hours per week for a period of consecutive 10 weeks while they are studying in Denmark. In case they could not show continuous 10 weeks work, they will be told to return back all the SU money.

Read more: Sad and Unrealistic: EU students could not work amid Corona lockdown and are now told to Pay back SU money

Blanka Papp, 24 years old Hungarian, is a fashion design EU student in Herning, Denmark. She came to Denmark in 2015 for work and study. She started her studies again in August 2019 that was when she became eligible and started getting SU money. Everything was going fine with her studies, work and SU until corona crisis started hitting Denmark.

Blanka was working in a restaurant in Aarhus and was quite happy with her employer and colleagues. Although the restaurant industry was already hit by corona crisis since the mid of February but It got worse when on 11th of March PM Mette Frederiksen announced the complete lockdown. Since 13th March she is at home as her work place is locked due to corona lockdown. At the end of March, she got a letter from SU authorities that she has to return all the SU money back as she could not fulfil the 10 hours work per week rule. She than send a detailed email to SU authorities explaining her situation as how the corona lockdown has stoped her from work.

Despite all the explanations, on 14th April, Blanka got a letter from SU authorities along two bills of DKK 52,866 which she has to pay by 8th of July, 2020.

I have been living in Denmark for almost 5 years and I have been working and studying these years. I have respected every law and followed the Danish way of life. But this will be a shock for me if I have to pay 52,000 kr while I am still a student plus jobless says Blanka.  I feel it is injustice and to be honest I can not pay 52,000 kr. as I do not have any, I am still a student. I am worried as how to manage my rent after I lost my job and on top of that not only my SU is stopped but I am told to pay back over DKK 52,000. That will surely bring me on roads says Blanka Papp.

Understanding, fairness and kindness can make it work

There are probably thousands of such cases where EU students are told to pay back SU money though they have followed the law by staying home after the lockdown. The solution can be quite simple if Danish government wants to give a relief. As government has announced to pause 225 hours of work per year rule for Danish national getting cash help from March to June, and suspended the handshake requirement for new citizens during the corona crisis, similarly work and income requirements for Non-EU workers and 10 hours work rule for EU students can also be waived for the time being.

Read more: Govt to suspend mandatory handshake for new citizens while Non-EU workers and EU students are told to show income and work despite Corona crisis

Blanka Papp and thousands of such EU students will only have a peace of mind if this rule of 10 hours work per week is paused for the time of this crisis else thousands of EU students will have to face severe consequences.

Govt to suspend mandatory handshake for new citizens while Non-EU workers and EU students are told to show income and work despite Corona crisis

After a long fight by Enhedslisten and Radikale Venstre, the govt agrees to temporarily suspend the handshake requirement for granting citizenship. Photo Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

In December 2018, a bill was passed in the Danish parliament calling for foreigners to shake hand before they can be granted citizenship. Since then it has been a requirement and everyone who have been granted citizenship were supposed to shake hand.

During the current corona crisis when authorities instruct to avoid handshakes, some 2700 new Danes were in line to be granted citizenship only waiting to shake hand. Social Democrats Minister Mattias Tesfaye stopped the citizenship ceremonies and these probable Danes were told to wait for further instruction probably until the pandemic is over. These applicants otherwise have fulfilled every requirement but only waiting to shake hand to be granted Danish citizenship.

Read more: Tesfaye dropper midlertidigt krav om håndtryk for statsborgerskab

Radikale Venstre and Enhedslisten parties have pressed strong to suspend the law for the time being. The decision comes after a week in which the minister did not want to answer whether handshakes at citizenship ceremonies should be paused, when the government itself is urging people not to shake hand because of the corona crisis. Today the Minister announced to suspend the handshake requirement temporarily which Radikale Venstre and Enhedslisten have been fighting for.

On the other side, Non-EU workers like green card holders, pay limit scheme holders, Permanent Residency (PR) and family reunification (FR) applicants and EU students are still supposed to fulfil the work and income requirements despite the corona lockdown. Non-EU workers in Denmark are required to show an annual income to extend their visa while permanent residency and family reunification applicants are supposed to show annual income and a continuous full time work. EU students on the other side are required to show a 10 hours work per week for a continuous period of 10 week before they can be granted Education Support Grants called SU. After the current corona crisis many of these workers and students lost their jobs or told to stay home. Thus they could not fulfil the income and work requirements but government continue to demand to show income and work otherwise their visa will not be extended or their applications for PR and FR will be rejected or EU students have to return all the SU money back.

Read more: Sad and Unrealistic: EU students could not work amid Corona lockdown and are now told to Pay back SU money

While these workers and students have lost their jobs with non of their faults but government continues to demand income and continuous work. Although there has been demand from immigrants and political parties like Enhedslisten and Radikale venstre to suspend these requirements for the time being but Social democrats and Danish Peoples Party continue to demand to fulfil these requirements.

Read more: Denmark migrant workers face another battle amid COVID-19 with mandatory work despite economic lockdown and fear of corona infection

It is indeed a good step to suspend the handshake requirement for new citizens and it is welcomed by immigrants but government must also suspend the illogical and unrealistic work and income requirements for visa extension, PR, family reunification applications and EU students. How can I continue to show 10 hours work per week when everything is closed and government is the one who closed it says Blanka an EU student. I am told to return back all SU money only because I could not show 10 hours work per week. I think it is unfair says Boglarka another EU student.

While the government suspension of handshake is welcomed but they are criticised over their demand from Non-EU workers and EU students to continue to show income and work. It will only be fair if these requirements of work and income are also suspended for time being like the handshake requirement.

Denmark migrant workers face another battle amid COVID-19 with mandatory work despite economic lockdown and fear of corona infection

Danish migrant workers face another battle amid COVID-19 with compulsory work despite the economic lockdown.
Photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has currently effected 204 countries and territories around the world. The world is almost on a standstill position and face an economic recession that has not been seen over decades. UN has named it global pandemic and called for humanity and ceasefire around the world.

Denmark registered its first corona case on February 27 and announced a complete lockdown from 13th March, 2020. Since then the country has seen an unprecedented economic recession and the highest unemployment rate in decades. The Govt announced historic Corona Help Package where businesses gets incentives to keep their employees. The package would cover 75% of the employees salary while businesses would have to pay the remaining 25%. Despite the generous corona package almost 43,000 people have registered as unemployed from 9th March to 24th March, 2020 and the numbers are increasing. This is because of the fact that many businesses are left behind counting costs and loses and could not even cover the 25% of the employees salaries.

The world is almost on a standstill position and an economic recession that has not been seen for decades. Image: Chris Miller

Read more: Corona crisis lengthens the job queue: The number of new vacant rounds is 40,000

A Dane worker might stay home and get social benefits but an immigrant is not allowed to get social benefits. A Dane needs not to worry about fulfilling any income or work requirement while immigrants have to earn required income and continue work to stay in Denmark even if in the current corona crisis they have to risk their life.

‘Unreasonable and sad’: Moumen has lost his job but risks his residence permit if he gets help DR North Jutland

Immigrants in Denmark face one of the world most strict immigration rules. Though these rules need to be changed but one might justify these rules in normal circumstances. In the current global pandemic and economic lockdown, on one side Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen request people to stay home, on the other side immigrants are told to continue work and show the required income else leave Denmark.

Read more: Danish Govt demand immigrants to show annual income or be ready for deportation despite corona lockdown

The Govt support parties like Radikale venstre and Enhedslisten agree to accommodate immigrants during the corona crisis. The recommendations send to parliament by various groups includes that income and work requirements should either be suspended or an exemption of 3 months should be granted during the corona crisis. Radikale Venstre MP Andreas Steenberg and Enhedslisten MP Rosa Lund in their statements to minister of Immigration have said that it would only be fair if an exemption of these rules are granted during the corona crisis. The Social Democrats Minister of Immigration Mattias Tesfaye stands with the extreme far right Danish Peoples’ party and argue that there is no need to relax the rules. In a written response to DR, Mattias Tesfaye writes that “he has a hard time seeing the argument that the corona should also make us relax the rules to get a permanent residence permit”. While immigrants and activists demand to suspend the rules for the time being during this crisis, Minister manipulate the situation by arguing that rules will not be changed.

Read more: R og EL vil tilgodese udlændinge i corona-klemme

Now there is a battle for Immigrants in Denmark along COVID-19 and that is, they have to work and show required income despite the economic lockdown and fear of coronavirus infection. For some immigrants, it is a battle to fight every month by working at least 120 hours each month to apply for Permanent residency while for others it is a matter of total annual income of 320,000 kr (greencard scheme) or 436,000 kr (pay limit scheme) that they have to show to Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) to stay in Denmark. In the recent press conference Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen was optimist and said that if Danes stay at home and continued social distancing, Denmark will open gradually after Easter. It will be indeed a win situation for everyone but immigrants battle to combat the income and work requirements will continue and get worse. Many immigrants will lose the right to stay in Denmark and might be forced to leave as thousands have lost jobs and will not be able to fulfil the income and work requirements. Thousands will have to wait for years to apply for Permanent residency while some might lose the right to apply for Danish passport for at least 4 years if they get social benefits to feed their family during these crisis.

A just scenario would be to exempt (not change as minister Mattias Tesfaye emphasis to divert the issues) these requirements during the current crisis and give a fair chance to immigrants who are laid off from work after the corona crisis. This is what is meant by UN when it calls for humanity and support during these crisis.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and currently resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.

Danish Govt demand immigrants to show annual income or be ready for deportation despite corona lockdown

Despite the lockdown and economic crisis amend corona crisis, Danish Govt continue to demand
immigrants to show annual income or be ready for deportation. Photo: Christoffer Laursen Hald / TV 2 NYHEDERNE

Corona Crisis has lockdown the whole world and businesses are falling apart. Thousands of employees have lost their jobs over night and hundreds of companies have filed bankruptcy. Denmark is no different and businesses are going down while employees are fired. Danish govt announced a much needed package but immigrants will continue to suffer as there is no relief for migrant workers. They rather face deportation despite the current global pandemic.

Denmark Corona Crisis: Immigrants continue to suffer despite Govt package

In a new move, Ministry of Integration has announced through the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) that there will be no mercy on those who lost their jobs because of the corona crisis. If immigrants want to stay in Denmark they have to show the required annual income.

Dispensation from income requirement due to the COVID-19 situation cannot be granted, even if you have been sent home without salary or laid off from your job, says the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI).

It is obvious that these immigrants can not find jobs during these crisis and will not be able to fulfil income and work requirement. Thus they will be deported and punished for something that has nothing to do with them. On one side Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen request people to stay home and lock their business while on the other side demand from immigrants to show income otherwise face deportation. It is a clear sign of injustice and no mercy especially in the midst of this global pandemic.

Denmark: Corona Virus economic crisis may result in thousands of immigrants losing their work permits

One of the immigrants who got an email on 30th March from his company that the company has filled bankruptcy and he will not be getting even the March salary for which he has worked. His visa extension is due in June. In current crisis, it will be almost impossible for him to find a new job and fulfil income requirement. His request from govt is to waive the income and work requirement for at least 3 months so that at least he can extend his stay in Denmark where he has been living for over 5 years along his 2 daughters.

Naqeeb Khan is a research graduate of the University of Glasgow, Scotland and currently resides in Denmark. He is president of Green Human Resources and an executive member with the Danish Green Card Association (DGCA). He can be contacted via email.