Ghalia al-Asseh had just begun studying chemistry and biotechnology at the Technical University of Denmark when the country’s immigration services summoned her for an interview.
For five hours, immigration officers asked about her proficiency in Danish, which she speaks fluently. They inquired how well integrated she was in Denmark, where she has lived with her family since fleeing Syria in 2015.
During the interview, in February, officers also told Ms. al-Asseh that the security situation in her hometown, Damascus, had improved, and that it was safe for her to return to Syria, she recalled in a telephone interview last week.
Ms. al-Asseh, 27, was losing her right to live in Denmark — even as her four brothers and parents could stay, and she had nowhere else to go.
not stable enough to be considered safe for returnees.
Those being asked to leave include high school and university students, truck drivers, factory employees, store owners and volunteers in nongovernmental organizations. All risk being uprooted from a country where they have built new lives.
“It is as if the Danish immigration services has bombed my dream, just as Bashar al-Assad bombed our homes,” said Asmaa al-Natour, 50, referring to Syria’s president. “Only this time the bombing is psychological.”
“ghettos,” and doubled punishments for certain crimes in these areas.
They have also overhauled the country’s legal apparatus on immigration, shifting it from integration to the accelerated return of refugees to their native countries. Hundreds of Somali refugees have also lost their residence permits after Denmark deemed Somalia safe to return to.
Per Mouritsen, an associate professor of political science at Aarhus University, said the government had toughened its stance on immigration in recent years to avoid losing votes to the right wing, a dilemma that several center-left parties across Europe have faced.
“The only way to beat the right-wing in Denmark is to sell your soul to the devil and be as tough on immigration in order to have support for social welfare policies in return,” Mr. Mouritsen said.
Last year, the number of refugees leaving Denmark exceeded the number of arrivals. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has vowed to go further, saying that Denmark will aim to have “zero asylum seekers.”