“Can you imagine the level of stress that asylum seekers experience during their time in the asylum system? “
I was asked this question recently by one of my colleagues, a red cross staff member who has been working in the asylum system for several years. I had to admit that it was hard for me to imagine what it would be like.
“No Danes are able to”, she said. She might be right. As Danes, we might experience a heavy loss when we lose someone dear to us or when we are forced to move from our beloved house because we have lost our job. If, at the same time, we have children to protect from the worst symptoms of our stress, we must control ourselves with extraordinary strength and not give up.
However, if you talk with people living in the asylum centers, you quickly discover that it is hard to compare your problems to those of a person who has had to flee their own country. According to a report by Amnesty International from 2008, 34% of the refugees coming to Denmark are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when they arrive at the asylum center. Put on top of that, the stress of the uncertainty of not knowing whether you will be given asylum or not. You have to brace yourself for the possible risk of a long wait as the average waiting time for a case to be processed is 566 days. 566 days of uncertainty.
I am quite sure that I would have a great difficulty managing my life in this kind of situation yet I still see so many asylum seekers keeping their heads up. Among them are some of the most inspiring people and they are writing for this magazine. Some of them fear to be recognized by persons in their home country so they write under pseudonym. But still, they insist on using their ability to express themselves. Sometimes they lose hope if some of their items are stolen at the asylum centre, if a violent episode chocks them, or if they are being refused asylum, and they have to put their faith in an appeal. But always they keep their heads up.
I am not sure if I would be able to if I was in their shoes. But I am grateful that they are and I am sure many readers of this magazine benefit from their endurance.
Robin Ahrenkiel El-Tanany