Denmark’s capacity to admit migrants is near breaking point. With 12,000 refugees searching for a place to live, nearly a third of the nation’s struggling municipalities say that they have little to offer newcomers.
A survey published today by Danish newspaper Politiken shows waiting times for permanent housing in ten municipalities is one year, but in four others the waiting time exceeds three years. Disused schools and nursing homes have been filled and temporary ‘pavilions’ erected on vacant lots in order to deal with the shortage of homes for the mainly Syrian and Eritrean migrants.
“We’ve reached breaking point,” Knud Kristensen, Conservative Mayor of Vesthimmerland Municipality in northern Jutland, told Politiken. According to Kristensen, Vesthimmerland has no more capacity in its various urban and rural communities, yet is due to accept another 108 migrants this year. He said:
“So we must now consider whether we can find family houses completely out in the country. But how can they get to shops and language schools if we spread them so far?”
Sixty-one of Denmark’s 98 municipalities responded to Politiken, with nearly half of them saying they are struggling to find homes for this year’s 12,000 refugees.
Vesthimmerland and eight other municipalities have resorted to ordering the temporary pavilions. One named by Politiken is the Allerød Municipality. Its Conservative mayor, Jørgen Johansen, said the pavilions are not a permanent solution. As they run out of permanent housing they will need to build subsidised homes, he said, adding: “but it will burden our economy. “
A further issue Johansen identified is that “it can be difficult to solve other problems like finding housing for those who have been divorced or who for other reasons need a smaller home.”
The Local reports that the problem is neither new to Denmark nor likely to improve any time soon.
In June 2014 – halfway through what ended a record year for refugees in Denmark when, per capita, it took in the sixth highest number of asylum applications in the EU – eight of every ten municipalities reported that they were struggling to find permanent housing solutions for refugees.
Despite the introduction of a new – and significantly lower – ‘integration benefit’ to replace unemployment payments for asylum seekers, migrant numbers continue to grow. On top of this year’s 12,000 refugees, Denmark’s municipalities have already been told they will be housing at least another 12,000 next year.