Mr. Mohammed Arbab Perveez, a Danish lawyer with Pakistani background, shares his journey of integration in Denmark with New Times
“The least a person can do for a society is to make an effort to integrate. Adapt and get adapted, speak the language, educate yourself, and try to be aware of what is going on around you.”
I sat down with Mr. Perveez, at his ‘transparent office’, where people passing by the office can see us and we can see them while having the interview. We started the interview at this mode, taking in consideration the very tight schedule and trying to cover his story, beginning with his background, along with his experiences.
This article raises the importance of integration by sharing the experience of a successful Danish-Pakistani lawyer, specializing in asylum cases.
How was the Perveez generation introduced into Denmark?
My grandfather first came to Denmark as a guest worker in 1960s. He later invited his family. My parents came as immigrants in the 70s. My father was 13 years old when he first came here and now he is 55. We are 6 siblings in total, five brothers and one sister. Our educational degrees vary from lawyer to economist to doctor.
Why did you choose to be a lawyer?
My father actually wanted me to become a doctor. While in college I met a guy who was studying law. After talking to him, I developed an interest in law. It sounded exciting and the thought of helping people achieve justice, preparing arguments and going to courts all sounded appealing. I convinced my father that this profession was suitable for me. Looking back at it now, I must admit it was the right choice for me.
My parents have never been in school and they don’t know how to read or write. Therefore it was very important for them that their children got a good education. We have lived in areas like Nørrebro, which is generally considered to be a ghetto for immigrants. While growing up we have witnessed fights and seen bullets but our parents kept our focus on studies. We owe it to our parents that we are all professionally successful.
What do you do and why?
Asylum law is complicated and it is important that you get good legal advice. I especially help asylum seekers when they have been refused asylum in Denmark and are in prison about to get deported. They have no way back and can’t get residence. I understand these people, and even though I may not always know their language, I know the mindset and the rules, which is why I am capable of helping them.
Many people spend a lot of money to come here to Denmark, not because they only want a better life for themselves, but also because they want to help their parents. I feel it’s disrespectful to classify them as criminals and put them in jail. They’ve struggled and I understand them, they feel that I can meet them with respect. When we meet, they feel that I am there to help them. Sometimes I’m the person they need to speak to, so I can explain to them the reasons why they can’t be here. My clients are Muslims, Christians, Ethnic Danes, and other nationalities, and they come to me because they have heard about my transparency and my qualifications.
What does Denmark offer people who are migrating?
Denmark is lovely. It is a free country offering a lot of possibilities. One just needs to be active in seeking the opportunities. Even if you don’t try, the Danish welfare system will give you the chance to educate and gain knowledge. It will give you the opportunity to help others. I always come back here because it’s where I feel free. You can be rich and still use a bike. You can be famous but you still ride in the same bus. There is great respect for other human beings in Denmark.
Anybody can come here. It’s everyone’s basic human right to seek protection if you’re in danger in your country or at risk of being killed or treated badly. You are free to try to improve your life as long as you respect the country and become a resource for it. The trademark of Denmark is openness and I help people benefit from that.
Did you face any challenges in order to integrate back then?
It was very easy to integrate in my times since it wasn’t all the time about how bad having foreigners or immigrants here in Denmark. But I also had challenges while I was growing up, when there was once an old lady while driving her car yelling at me, when I was crossing the walking green sign, saying: “ It’s an Ape, KILL him!” But this I knew at that time, what I should overcome and face, in order to be a normal Danish person here.
Have things changed now?
Nowadays, its way more difficult for new immigrants to get integrated than before, because now, all the spotlight is, over their heads. That means that actions are being calculated and everything they do is spotted, just like its spread in the media.
The status of the immigrants have changed. The media has played a role in creating certain perceptions that have resulted in a significant change in how the society views immigrants and refugees. Today, all we hear is that a robbery was committed by an immigrant. The ethnic background is always highlighted and the negative views now dominate which way immigrants are perceived.
Do/did you experience any moments of racism, or handled one in your profession?
As a grown-man, a professional lawyer, looking at my place of region, and where socially I place my self at, its hard to happen. “Immigrants will always be easier to be convicted, and its against human rights” as my Ethnic Danish lawyer, a colleague of mine once said.
Are the odds to get integrated in Denmark getting against that and what can we do about it?
Of course, with no intention to generalize, there are some pretty good and humane projects in Denmark that are very well put in order for newcomers to feel at home. Here I would like to stress that being a refugee could be a result of a war, an armed conflict, poor living conditions, starvation or even a financial crisis.
It is not only enough to integrate, and make a family, have a decent job, get a good education but an integrated person should also struggle to help others who are not familiar with the system in Denmark. Do your best in everything and even if you go through bad times, don’t give up. You have to struggle to achieve something in life. And you need to believe in order to succeed. I am a believer.