COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – Denmark’s Queen Margrethe and Germany’s Vice-Chancellor will inaugurate a new museum on Saturday that will tell the story of the generations of refugees who have shaped Danish society, starting with Germans who fled the Soviet advance during World War II. .
Flugt — Denmark Refugee Museum was established on the site of a camp in Oksboel, a town in southwestern Denmark that was home to up to 100,000 refugees from Germany in the post-war years.
Flugt – meaning escape in Danish – also tells the story of immigrants from Iran, Lebanon, Hungary, Vietnam and elsewhere who fled their homeland and found shelter in the Scandinavian country. They tell their story in their own words on large video screens.
“Being a refugee is not something you decide. It’s not someone’s personal choice, it’s something that happens,” Sawsan Gharib Dall, a stateless Palestinian who was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon and lived there until she fled and arrived in Denmark in 1985, says in a video.
Curator Claus Kjeld Jensen explains that the goal of the museum is “to turn numbers into people and convey the completely universal problems, emotions and many nuances associated with being a person on the run.”
Designed by prominent Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, the museum consists of a curved modern building of wood and glass connecting two older brick outbuildings that were hospital buildings in the post-war years.
Ingels has said the new museum has become more relevant as Denmark has recently accepted refugees fleeing the Russian war in Ukraine, though the museum doesn’t specifically appeal to them.
Outside the museum, a path leads visitors past plaques describing the fate of the Germans who sought shelter in the Oksboellejren camp between 1945 and 1949. Most of them eventually settled in West Germany, but a cemetery on the site has become the final resting place for those who died there.
Opening to the public on June 29, the museum was funded by private donations and the German government, and German Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck will represent his country at Saturday’s opening ceremony.
It is located 275 kilometers (170 miles) west of Copenhagen, but only 95 kilometers (60 miles) from the border with Germany.
Denmark has been a refuge for refugees in the past. Of Denmark’s 5.8 million residents, more than 650,000 are immigrants, while 208,000 are listed in state statistics as descendants of immigrants.
However, in recent years, with large-scale migration as a source of fear in the Western world, the country has sought to limit the number of newcomers it accepts. It has sometimes received international criticism for the way it has tried to discourage them from settling there.
Denmark, sandwiched between Germany and Sweden, took in only a small fraction of the more than 1 million people who came from Africa and the Middle East in the 2015 migration crisis year.
More than 11,500 people applied for asylum in Denmark, 1.1 million in Germany and 163,000 in Sweden. Many saw Denmark only as a transit point because of the hard Danish stance.
A law was passed in 2016 that allows authorities to seize refugees’ jewelry and other belongings to help fund their housing and other services. In practice, it has only been used a handful of times.
Denmark also revoked the residence permits of some Syrian refugees by declaring parts of Syria “safe” and toyed with the idea of opening camps for asylum seekers in Rwanda.
Denmark has still not concluded a deal for sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. However, Britain, which had similar plans, had to abort its first scheduled flight of asylum seekers after intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, which called “a real risk of irreversible damage”.
According to official statistics, 2,717 people have applied for asylum in Denmark so far this year.