The deepening immigration crisis is forcing European Union countries to intensify their search for solutions. Meanwhile, the actions of individual states are coming to the fore ever more frequently. We have already written about Hungary’s construction of a fence on the border with Serbia. In late July it was reported that Denmark plans to publish an informative advertisement in foreign publications in order to reduce the inflow of refugees from Syria.
In an interview with a Danish television channel on 23 July, Integration Minister Inger Støjberg (Venstre) said that placing the advertisement in foreign publications is necessary for dispelling mistaken impressions regarding the relative ease of access for refugees and a generous benefits system in Denmark. The advertisement addressed primarily towards people from Syria will be published in the mass media of such countries as Turkey – in other words, in those countries through which refugees head to Europe.
The examples of Germany and Austria, where people from the Balkans often try to go, are put forward as the rationale for such a move. As Mehmet Ata, a representative from Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, explained to Europe Insight, the office, with the assistance of the country’s embassy in Albania, published information in the form of an advertisement in six national newspapers in late June.
Harald Neymanns from Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior told Europe Insight that the objective of the campaign was to combat disinformation. According to him, many Albanians think that they can obtain political asylum in Germany for economic reasons. And, thus, many have sold their homes and tried to make it to Germany not understanding the situation in Albania is not seen as life-threatening and that asylum cannot be granted to them.
Austria conducted similar information activities in Kosovo. In February and March, announcements published there clarified, in particular, that unemployment is not a basis for receiving asylum. In the meantime, Austria also made deportation far easier, considerably shortening the whole evaluation and decision-making procedure to 15 days. As a representative from the Federal Ministry of the Interior of Austria, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, informed Europe Insight, the number of refugees was reduced from a thousand in December 2014-January 2015 to 20-30 people in June thanks to these measures.
However, employees of the Austrian and German agencies unanimously emphasise the fact that these measure are not directed against those who are legally entitled to asylum. Those fleeing war zones (Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan) can count on state assistance as before.
In Denmark, the initiative substantially differs. Many have taken Inger Støjberg’s words as an attempt to restrict the flow of immigration in general. This impression is also aggravated by proposals from the most prominent partner in the ruling coalition, the Danish Popular Party, for a campaign targeted at “scaring off” migrants. And even though Støjberg has distanced herself from the idea of “intimidation”, few believe that the message is positive.
On one hand, support for her was predictably voiced in the Danish Popular Party, where it was noted that the ascent of the government, which is sceptical of migrants, has already produced useful rumours that have brought about a reduction the number of arrivals (Jyllands Posten). In the Liberal Alliance, they are also rather willing to believe in the positive effect of the initiative (Jyllands Posten).
On the other hand, humanitarian organizations (Refugees Welcome, Pro Asyl) have already protested against the potential campaign in, among others, the British newspaper the Guardian. “It is hard to believe that the information, for example about benefits levels, will get to those people fleeing their countries and affect the routes they take,” said Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council Andreas Kamm, expressing his doubts (Jyllands Posten).
“It is absolutely impossible to imagine a group of refugees sitting around and looking through Le Figaro then seeing an advertisement and changing their opinion,” ironically noted former Integration Minister Manu Sareen in an interview with Avisen.dk.
Danish publications write that Denmark has become the only European country which, to reduce refugee numbers, is waging a foreign mass media campaign (Politiken). However, as Europe Insight has learned, this is not entirely true. The representative from Austria’s Interior Ministry, Karl-Heinz Grundböck, confirmed that for now the country is not going to conduct similar campaigns since there is no need for them. In Germany, conversely, as Mehmet Ata commented to Europe Insight, the agency “is planning new information campaigns in Balkan countries.”