By Maria Imonitie
I Do Not Have to Worry about A Visa. Do You?
Red. It is the colour of my passport which apparently gives me the opportunity to travel the world without any worries. That leaves the imagination open for every adventure that my mind might come up with. Where should we go next? Well, it is stress-free to think about the world as being open to everyone when you have easy access to it. However, such is not the case for everyone.
At the age of 24, I have travelled to more than 30 different countries and I have never experienced being denied access to a country. Thus, I have been able to do what has become a ‘demand’ in the discourse of the labour market and politicians in Denmark – being able to travel the world to challenge myself and to find and place myself in a position where I ‘beat’ competitors for a job because I have seen the world. The Prime Minister of Denmark even stated last year that the youth should travel and explore the world as this would be the future market for Denmark. In this sense, I have, for instance, been on an exchange program to Hong Kong, where no questions were asked about my intentions because of course I just wanted to improve my future. Well, thank you, Red Passport.
It is a paradox that as I live in a part of the world where I never have had to worry about food or security, I can travel to any destination without anyone raising an eyebrow, whereas people who hail from regions that have terrible conditions and approach the Danish border to improve their lives, they are denied entry. Really? Something seems a bit off in this construction.
When discussing transition, I understand it as someone who is on the move, the busy-bee of the international sphere, one who has a life in a global world and someone who is about to change a setting, a life. But how does this reflect on the reality of those who are in transition to actually be able to simply just live their lives by survival? These people who are constantly on the move due to lack of security in their native countries are not counted in but are rather referred to as ‘the other’ or the refugees. But when I try to escape the monotony of school and go on exchange programs, I am far from being called a refugee and referred to as being global. The Western world seems to ignore the logic of why one would flee from everything they know to somewhere different, foreign and new, or as Elizabeth Beck-Gernsheim, a German Sociologist, describes it, “in other words, why should I be poor, hungry, oppressed when people elsewhere have plenty to eat, have their own house and a motorcar, and can go to the doctor when they are sick? Why should I go on suffering here? Why not try to get there?”
I was flying back from a vacation, which I think is a privilege to have as a student, when I engaged in a conversation with two women, a generation older than me, about their relationship to travelling. One of them said that the only time she experienced being checked from top to bottom was at the Russian border. This made me think about how the discourse about Russia often includes how they are discriminating the homosexuals, foreigners and women, and also refers to Russia as being a restricted, dominant, ‘less-free’ country. Denmark, on the other hand, is miles ahead of Russia in terms of having freedom, open democracy etc. so how come we do not realise to share traits with them when it comes to discriminating people coming from other countries? People who are fleeing from war and insecurities? Parents and children seek better opportunities for a greater and better life, which we are so proud of demonstrating and portraying to the world that we have, but still, there is no way we would like to share this with anyone. It seems to me that we have forgotten that those who come to our borders, searching for help and want to establish a new life in Denmark, are also people who we can employ, who we can teach and who we can learn from. It is a paradox that we have all these opportunities for working abroad, doing development work and going on exchange, but we do not see the same benefits when it goes the other way around. This will leave Denmark a poorer place, as the country will be known to celebrate migrant restrictions and have closed borders for the humans who need our help the most.
Everything Is in A Box, But Where Is the Box for “Love?”
I have found my soulmate- it sounds like a cliché, right? But this is the reality of many people in Denmark and around the world. This also means that when going out to travel, which has, as discussed above, quickly become a demand of the public, there is a high chance that you will find someone in the “other” world.
In Denmark, right-wing politics have increased heavily in the past few years and there have been restrictions and tightening up of rules that allow nationalities other than Danish to live in the country. These rules have varying effects, including some, as I believe, leading to wrong consequences that might result in high transition for Danish citizens. When visiting the website “nyiDanmark.dk” to understand the rules required to get a residency permit, there are all these boxes and if you do not fit into any of them, you are no longer in a position to be considered to get a permit to live and work in Denmark. This also has an effect on those who have found their love in Denmark. I saw a commercial by Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) that portrays travellers as the future and focuses on a little girl who can travel to Los Angeles and Tokyo; the world is open for her and she can realize her dreams, whatever they might be. But what about those who just dream about a future with security and being together with whom they love? Where is the room for them? Scandinavia is known for being one of the better-functioning countries and while I believe it is true, we lack humanity when we make boxes to categorise people from other places of the world. I have found my soulmate, but unfortunately, for Denmark, he does not fit into one of the boxes, which has resulted in us moving away from Denmark – my native country, my motherland and my support for seeing the world. But, it prevents me from engaging in the same world, if it is within the Danish borders. So my life now is in constant transition between going to school in Denmark and living in Sweden to be with my family.
Moreover, there is a paradox that when living abroad, you are no longer allowed to vote in Denmark, even if you still have your citizenship, which means that those of us who are forced out are not able to change the same laws. So, how are we going to change it?
Between 1990 and 2017, there has been an increase in the number of migrants by 69%, which is a lot, but when going into the details of the numbers, the majority of migrants are from the so-called Global South to the Global North. But I believe that this will at some point change. It might still be attractive to move towards Europe, but Denmark will not be one of these countries, as we are now known, globally, for being the country that forces its own citizens out of its territory just to be with the men or women in their family.
Is is not only me and my little constitution that is hurt, but this is also causing huge issues for families in which children who may not be born in the country are then considered “not able to integrate,” even when they are enrolled in Danish schools, speak Danish and have no issues. This is simply to target one group of people, who are, statistically, not causing any issues. This way of political removing children or parents from their comfort and their livelihood as such is attracting criticism from Amnesty International for being against the international conventions of human rights. So, how come the Danish state can go through with this? In 2017, I wrote a project about the left-wing increase that is seen throughout Europe, with England, Germany and France as examples, which shows that the refugees or the migrants are not causing any harm in areas of crime or economy, but rather it is the discourse of the media and politicians that are causing issues. Moreover, has a Swedish article been written on how the migrants have actually given the Swedish economy a boost, so, where is the issue again?
This leads to my biggest concern, that media and politicians in the “former” good Denmark have caused its citizens to live in transition to be with whomever they choose to be with.
When putting things at an edge, the President of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad, controlled the country in such a manner that the population had to seek permission for who they wanted to marry. Are we seriously heading there, Denmark? For now, it seems like it, with all the boxes that have been created to make it difficult to be “the other” in Denmark. It is a shame and I am not proud of this change. We must make it stop.
About the Author
Maria Imonitie: I am doing my masters in Global Studies at Roskilde University, Denmark. I have been on an exchange program to Hong Kong. I have done fieldwork in both Mozambique and Uganda. I am a 24-year-old Danish citizen and married to a Nigerian man. I grew up in a typical family with a mother, father, sister and brother in a small city outside Copenhagen. I have always been interested in understanding the unfairness in the world. With my studies, I will hopefully be capable of stopping some of the injustices in the world.