From Refugee to Employee: Work Integration in Rural Denmark

Martin Ledstrup and Marie Larsen

Forced Migration Review 58, June 2018, pp. 14-16


This article describes Red Cross Denmark’s Fast Track program, which aims to facilitate early access to the local labor market for refugees while they are still in the asylum phase. It allows participants to remain in the municipality where they claim asylum rather than being assigned to another municipality when they are granted refugee status. The program supports a skills assessment, followed by training covering Danish culture, language skills, vocational training and potential local internships, techniques for job searching, information about local work culture, network building and sustaining motivation. In socio-economically vulnerable rural areas and islands, which are suffering from depopulation, refugees are regarded as a much-needed boost to local sustainability. In preparation for the implementation of the Fast Track program in Bornholm island, interviews were conducted about refugees, integration, and the local labor market, revealing potential challenges for refugee integration, specifically: (a) sufficient Danish to function in the workplace as well as continuous language development for career advancement and to extend interactions beyond the workplace; (b) uncertainty around whether refugees will stay in the local community after the mandatory three-year placement period; (c) the type and size of workplaces are significant in terms of facilitating integration—smaller workplaces have less resources to devote to refugee integration; (d) there is an acute need for skilled labor, but when refugees search for unskilled work they compete with unskilled Danish workers.