Danes are usually reserved and talk less, especially with strangers or people they have just met. It is hard to make Danish friends whether at university or at work or else where. A study of international students at DTU reveals that the Danish friends circle is usually close-knit, but once you are in, then they open up and become helpful and understanding.
Nerrisa Rose Weis is an expat residing in Denmark since 2007. She came to Denmark under an expatriate work contract. She is a single mom and living with her 14 years old son in the outskirts of Copenhagen in Hellerup.
After the current Corona crisis unfolded, thousands of businesses shutdown while millions of people reported unemployment around the world. In Denmark around 43,000 people registered as unemployed just in two weeks from 9th March to 24th March, 2020 and the numbers are much higher now. Nerrisa was one of those who lost their jobs. Though the government announced the historic Corona Help Package for employers and employees but not all can benefit from it. Employees can only avail the package if they are not fired from work. As Nerrisa got fired from work so she could not avail the compensation.
Considering her expenses and the current crisis, Nerrisa decided to approach her landlord for a relief on rent. Nerrisa has been renting her current apartment for three years now from her landlord. After sharing her story, Nerrisa got a very positive response from the landlord – a Dane.
The generous Dane gave a relief and told Nerrisa that she only needs to pay 2/3 of her rent for the next three months i.e. April, May and June. Not everyone who lost their jobs is provided with an acute lifeline like Nerrisa. Through she still has to beat the odds of finding a job and earn money to afford the home with her 14 years old son but the relief her landlord has given make us believe that kindness in humanity exist and it is always good to approach others for help at the time of crisis. This gesture of the Danish landlord reminds us that Danes are helpful and understanding once you approach them. It will surely strengthen the bond between the landlord and tenant.
While the generous Dane came forward and extended support to the unemployed single mother, Non-EU workers and EU students are still looking for some miracle to happen. Non-EU workers e.g. pay limit scheme holders or green card holders are required to show an annual income and continuous work if they desire to continue their stay in Denmark. During this corona crisis and especially after the lockdown thousands of Non-EU workers lost their jobs or are told to stay home. It has resulted in either no income or less than required income for those immigrants. They will either be told to leave Denmark or their Permanent Residency (PR) or family reunification (FR) applications will be rejected. One prime example, a green card holder (who wish to remain anonymous) who has been working in the tourism industry for the last 5 years, was told by his employer on Monday, 16th March, to stay home until further notice. It will be hard for him to find another job in the current crisis. His visa extension is due in December this year for which he has to show DKK 317,681 as an annual income or he must leave Denmark.
EU students are another group who have to face one more battle during corona crisis. In Denmark, students are paid certain amount of money called SU each month. EU students are paid this amount on the condition that they have to show 10 hours work each week for a continuous period of 10 weeks. In case any student could not show 10 hours work in these consecutive 10 weeks, they will be told to return all the money they have received so far as SU.
Boglarka Makari, an EU student in UCN Aalborg could not continue her job after the lockdown. She still received a letter from the SU department asking her to return back all the SU amount i.e. DKK 16.424. The reason mentioned in the letter is that she did not fulfil the 10 hours work per week rule. Though she was told to stay home by employer after the corona lockdown but still have to pay back the SU amount for which she has worked.
Immigrants will suffer miserably if the same understanding and kindness is not shown to them by Danish government like the one Nerrisa received from her Danish landlord. As Nerrisa has been paying her rent on time and taking care of the apartment, in return, her landlord understood her situation and offered her relief when she direly needed it. It is the same for immigrants who have been working hard over the years and paying taxes, and now when it comes time for the government to respond with kindness and fairness especially in this global pandemic, it should respond positively.
As a common Dane, Nerrisa’s landlord showed how Danes should react in a time of crisis like this pandemic. Now it is time for the Danish government to respond positively to those Non-EU workers and EU students. If the Danish government exempts the three months income and work requirements for workers and students, or freeze these requirement during the current crisis, it will not only give a peace of mind to those immigrants but, more importantly, the bond with Denmark will be even stronger as they will feel that they’re a valuable part of the country they already call home.
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.