Danish Queen opens new museum telling refugee story

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Queen Margrethe of Denmark opened a new museum on Saturday that tells the story of the generations of refugees who shaped Danish society, beginning with the Germans who fled the Soviet advance during World War II. world.

Flugt – The Danish Refugee Museum was established on the site of a camp in Oksboel, a town in southwestern Denmark, which housed up to 100,000 refugees from Germany in the post-war years.

Flugt – which means escape in Danish – also tells the story of immigrants from Iran, Lebanon, Hungary, Vietnam and elsewhere who fled their homelands and found refuge in the Scandinavian country. They tell their stories in their own words on large video screens.

“Being a refugee is not something you decide. It’s not a personal choice, it’s something that happens,” said Sawsan Gharib Dall, a stateless Palestinian woman born in a refugee camp in Lebanon. and who lived there until she ran away and came to Denmark. in 1985, said in a video.

Curator Claus Kjeld Jensen explained that the museum’s goal is to “turn numbers into people and convey the completely universal issues, emotions and many nuances associated with being a person on the run”.

The museum was designed by prominent Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and consists of a modern curved wood and glass building that connects two old brick annexes that were hospital buildings in the post-war years.

Ingels said the new museum has become more relevant as Denmark recently accepted refugees fleeing Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Outside the museum, a path leads visitors past plaques describing the fate of Germans who sought refuge in the camp, called Oksboellejren, between 1945 and 1949. Most of them eventually settled in East Germany. ‘West, but a cemetery on the site became the final resting place. place for those who died there.

The museum, which opens to the public on June 29, was funded by private donations and the German government, and German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck represented his country at the opening ceremony on Saturday.

It is located 275 kilometers (170 miles) west of Copenhagen but only 95 kilometers (60 miles) from the border with Germany.

Denmark was once a haven for refugees. Of Denmark’s 5.8 million people, more than 650,000 are immigrants, while 208,000 are listed in state statistics as descendants of immigrants.

However, in recent years the country, with large-scale migration causing anxiety in the Western world, has sought to limit the number of newcomers it accepts. It has at times drawn international criticism for the way it has tried to discourage them from trying to settle there.

Caught between Germany and Sweden, Denmark took in only a small fraction of the more than one million people who arrived from Africa and the Middle East during the migration crisis year of 2015.

More than 11,500 people have applied for asylum in Denmark, while 1.1 million have done so in Germany and 163,000 in Sweden. Many saw Denmark only as a transit point due to Denmark’s tough stance.

In 2016, a law was passed allowing authorities to seize jewelry and other property from refugees to help fund housing and other services. In practice, it has only been implemented a handful of times.

Denmark has also revoked the residence permits of some Syrian refugees declaring parts of Syria “safe” and has toyed with the idea of ​​opening camps for asylum seekers in Rwanda.

Denmark has still not reached an agreement to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. However, Britain, which had similar plans, had to cancel its first planned flight of asylum seekers after the intervention of the European Court of Human Rights, which cited “a real risk of irreversible harm “.

According to official statistics, 2,717 people applied for asylum in Denmark this year.

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