Avnstrup on strike: Eight problems and demands

BY WORKSHOP PARTICIPANTS • OCTOBER 2020

The residents of Deportation Center Avnstrup joined our voices together to create a list of eight problems and demands that express why we choose to strike and protest the slow violence we endure at the hands of the Danish state. Here, participants at a writing workshop for camp residents and allies wrote as individuals to voice the personal outrage behind this collective struggle.

To support the strike from outside Avnstrup, follow Hand by Hand on Facebook and join the demonstration on Wednesday, 21 October, when the Immigration Service is scheduled to visit.

1. Two times signing in a day is mental torture.

When I go to the office to sign in, I feel bad – I feel like a prisoner. It has a bad psychological effect, and it means that we can’t visit friends or family. It also makes us depressed. We are really tired of doing this. There is no reason to do this.

2. The Social Democracts do not respect their promise.

When they formed a government with the support of other parties, the Social Democrats promised that they would give families better living conditions and basic rights. They then followed the letter of this agreement while making life even more cruel in Avnstrup. They can’t win this double game; it is not possible to be human and inhuman with the same actions. They hope that future voters, those who may be children today just like the children in the camp, will not remember. They hope those voters will grow up in a country without refugees and never ask the reason why. I don’t believe it: I think those voters will live in a less fearful time, and will remember sadly the broken promises of leaders who tried to make life impossible instead of possible.

3. We want equal education like Danish kids. All asylum children should go to Danish school.

Every child has the right to be educated, to get the right education. Every child has to go to school no matter his/her status (Danish, illegal??, asylum seeker…). Most of Avnstrup’s kids go to a special school that is governed by the Red Cross and offers a reduced education program. They have to travel an hour every day to go to this Lynge school and an hour to come back. The travel time and the noise in the bus makes the kids exhausted, distracts them. The school program, at least in practice, is very reduced and almost none of the kids know how to read. They speak Danish but that is the only asset they have from all this everyday “experience”. Most of the kids don’t know what a normal daily routine in school is; it seems more convenient for the school’s staff that they go and play every 20 minutes, and just stand up and play too during “lesson time”. We name this school “Abusive”, and we point out to this school’s staff the right that they are denying our kids because of their lack of will!

4. We are tired of camp life – let us live a free life.

We are tired of living in asylum centers, just sleeping and eating. Is it true that Denmark is a democratic country? We don’t believe it, because we live in a prison without having committed any crime. Are children’s rights respected? Is it a child’s right to sleep with a hungry, empty stomach? Is it a child’s right to dream that their mother will cook for them?

5. Denmark is not a dictatorship, but we are treated many years without any freedom.

I have lived in Denmark for five years. Before I arrived here I thought it was a democratic country, but afterwards I realized that this is not true for people like us, who are obliged to live in the Avnstrup and Sjælsmark asylum camps. The rest of the people in Denmark decide on their own food, clothes, and everything for their children. In Avnstrup we cannot do that. We live in 2020, in Europe, and still we cannot. Is this democracy? For many years Denmark has kept this knee on our necks; we will die from their pressure. Why doesn’t anybody hear our voice for help?

6. We need to get money to cook our food – we don’t want packaged food.

I came to Denmark in 2015, and I still live in Denmark. I live in Denmark, but my life is nothing but moving from asylum center to asylum center. I came to Denmark in the hope of a better life. We came out of fear for our lives. Unfortunately, though, we have been treated as criminals. Every six months we are moved to a new asylum center. Our children have developed problems with depression. They cannot understand the meaning of life because they live with stress every day. We had a great hope of achieving residency, going to work, and seeing our children go to school and study toward their dream education. Our children ask many questions about why other people always decide for us: what we should eat, what we should wear, where we should live. Every day I go to the cafeteria and get food, but nobody in my family wants to eat it. What democracy is this where we are forced to eat food we hate?

7. Stop deporting our children to countries that are not safe and free.

We are here in Denmark with our children because we fear violence and threats to life in our countries. As we know from the Rights of the Child, children have to grow up without fear. Who is responsible if we go back and our kids are dead? Who is responsible for all the trauma our kids are experiencing because of the situation we left and because of the unsafe situation we face every day of our life in Denmark’s lifestyle as asylum seekers? Can anybody make a parallelism between the life of our kids and the Rights of the Child? We know very well that children’s rights and our kids’ rights are two parallel lines! Avnstrup kids are missing a normal life of homecooked food, normal school, the blessed everyday’s routine – the minimum of the conditions they need at home.

8. We feel we are animals because our daily life is eating and sleeping.

If we have to describe a normal day’s routine in Avnstrup, we don’t need to write a lot! Our daily routine starts with the line we create standing in front of the cafeteria for the packed food we take. After that, we do some laundry and wait for lunchtime. We get in line and pick up lunch, wishing something more healthy will be there at dinner. After lunch we spend time up and down, around, or on some small walks out in the center. We take dinner, always in a queue, and mostly we throw it back in the garbage because almost every day there is chicken and rice. This fast food is killing us all. Our kids don’t know what a vegetable soup is. This prison is not for us! Nor for our kids!