Instead of Writing About Them, One Paper Lets Refugees Do the Talking

A dozen refugees took over the Friday edition of a Danish newspaper.
A demonstration in support of refugees in Aarhus, Denmark, in September. (Photo: Reuters)
Oct 10, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

The refugee crisis has dominated newspaper headlines for the past several months, but a Danish paper decided to take a different approach to discussing migrants in Europe—by letting the refugees speak for themselves.

A dozen refugees penned the Friday edition of Dagbladet Information, The Guardian reports. The small, liberal paper has a daily circulation of about 20,000 but printed extra copies of this special edition.

“Refugees are almost all we talk about in Denmark these days,” Lotte Folke Kaarsholm, a features editor for Dagbladet Information, told The Guardian. “We thought we would shut up and let refugees set the agenda.”

“In print and in pixels, we have given the floor to refugees in today's newspaper.”

Danish journalists helped with translation and research, but refugees from Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Kenya, Thailand, and Iraqi Kurdistan wrote all of the articles. Each contributor worked as a journalist in his or her home country, and some paid a terrible price for reporting the news.

“Every time I see a football or a pair of football boots, it hurts. He had just tied his shoes and was heading out to play when the bomb exploded,” wrote Zeinab Uzbak, an Afghani journalist whose son was killed in retaliation for her writing.

Across the 48-page spread, journalists wrote of their treacherous journeys to Denmark, time spent in refugee camps, and difficulty finding work in their new home, according to The Journal I.E.

Denmark’s conservative government has come under fire for its harsh treatment toward refugees. Last month, the government took out ads in four Lebanese newspapers warning refugees of strict regulations for entry in the Nordic country. Denmark also opted out of an arrangement with the European Union to take in more refugees and slashed social benefits.

Public opinion appears to differ drastically from the government’s hard-line stance. Danish citizens funded two sets of counter ads in U.K., German, and Lebanese papers welcoming refugees and apologizing for their government’s hostility. Some 30,000 people demanded better treatment for asylum seekers in a Copenhagen protest this week.