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.

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