Rejecting Government Hostility, People of Denmark Issue Welcome Letter to Refugees

A group of ordinary Danes has devised a creative way to directly counter—and apologize for—their government’s message of hostility towards refugees.

Denmark’s government attracted international criticism last month when it printed advertisements in four Lebanese papers warning refugees not to come to the European country by emphasizing that its laws are hostile to those fleeing war and poverty.

But in response, Danes affiliated with the group People Reaching Out on Friday launched their own advertising campaign—to welcome refugees with open arms and apologize for their government’s xenophobic and heartless message.

To differentiate its message, the campaign depicted marked-up versions of the government’s original advertisements and included a “statement from people to people” which declares: “Sorry for the hostility towards refugees expressed here. As ordinary Danes we wish to extend our sympathy and compassion to anyone fleeing war and despair.”

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Denmark’s government is taking an increasingly hostile stance toward refugees, with slashes to services as well as the shutting down of trains and roads linked with Germany. This trend is driven by the right-wing Liberal Party, which formed a minority government in June.

However, Denmark is not alone. States across Europe are tightening their borders, cutting aid to refugees and building fences as the continent faces its greatest influx of people since World War II. The humanitarian failure of governments is accompanied by racist, anti-immigrant blow-back.

But within Denmark, public surveys—and the outraged response—indicate that the government crackdown does not reflect the will of the majority of Danish people. A Gallup Poll released last month found that 56 percent of people in Denmark want their government to increase the number of residency permits it grants to refugees. That figure is a significant boost from polling last year.

Meanwhile, ordinary people across the continent—from soccer matches in Germany to train stations in Vienna—have greeted refugees with a message of welcome.

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