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Greenland: A Viable Destination for Middle Eastern Migrants?

 6 min read / 

Dubbed “Denmark’s Australia” by its critics, the idea of ‘offshore processing’ was first put forward by the leader of Denmark’s second largest political party DPP, Kenneth Kristensen Berth. To some, an offshore processing plan was a novel idea; an innovative solution to the sums of migrants entering the European Union. However, to the majority, its downfall was the radical rhetoric and lack of a viable course of action. It did not extend beyond suggesting to send asylum-seekers to Denmark’s constituent Greenland.

The argument at hand was that Denmark is the worst country in Europe for asylum seekers to be integrated. This is due to the existence of an incentive whereby one is paid to leave by the government of Denmark if one is unable to integrate effectively. Fortunately, a more convincing argument for the Greenland programme now exists. In the end, it was just a nationalist idea that received less than ample press coverage- which is why you have probably never heard about it, until now.

Influx in Applications

The developing Syrian conflict has led to an influx of asylum applications to the EU, just under 1.4 million last year alone. The number attempting to make the treacherous journey over is considerably greater.

First, consider why they are seeking asylum in Europe. The simple answer is twofold; political stability and economic opportunity beyond their wildest dreams. Their reasons, for the most part, are understandable. If their home is embroiled in a civil war or persecutes them for freedoms we take as given here in Europe, who can blame them for not wanting to stay in their home countries.

So when does the problem arise? Why a “crisis” if migration is well documented to be a positive phenomenon, both economically and politically. Indeed, if integrated effectively, immigrants are seen as more entrepreneurial and stimulating to the local economy per household than their native counterparts.

Ineffective Immigration Methods

The crisis, therefore, is a result of ineffective integration methods. When thousands of asylum seekers are secluded in ‘asylum-homes’ with little to no exposure to the surrounding environment and its customs, they are unable to adapt. When thousands of asylum-seekers spend months living off state hand-outs because of painstakingly slow registration processes prohibiting them from work, they become habituated. They either become accustomed to surviving off state support, or they clash with the local population.

There are countless examples of this – particularly in Turkey as of late. Most recently there were days of rioting after a Turkish man was killed trying to stop a group of Syrian assailants harassing local girls. Unfortunately, the lengthy processes preventing these men from working can result in them occupying themselves in less than desirable ways. To quote Murat Erdogan, a migration expert at Hacettepe University, “If we can turn them from being dependant on aid to earning a living, they would be less exposed to resentment by locals”. This presents a catch-22 when thousands of migrants are at countries’ borders desperately in need of integration, but nationalist fervour simmers among the electorate. In the current political climate, an immigration policy mistake can be a very costly one.


Halfway across the Atlantic lies an island covered with glaciers and ice caps.  Only a fifth of it is habitable. This fifth equals to almost the entire surface area of Sweden. Despite this, the population of Greenland is a mere 0.5% of Sweden’s 10 million. This is not without cause, of course. Amongst other reasons, there has been a considerable slow-down in an industry that comprises 90% of Greenland’s exports; shrimp-fishing. In a 2014 interview, Peter Beck of Greenland’s finance ministry highlighted the crucial importance of moving away from this 90% figure.

The answer, as a Guardian article earlier this year claimed, lies in mining. Although the most lucrative type, Uranium mining, has been banned since 1988, there are still 56 active exploration licenses at the time of writing. It is likely that this figure will only increase as the country “refuses to be the victimised people of climate change”. Ib Laursen, a Dane who was lived in Narsaq for over a decade and is the operations manager of the Kvanefjeld mine, promises 2000 construction and 800 permanent jobs per mine in Greenland. Whilst Uranium has been given a bad reputation by China (producing 90% of the worlds Uranium) the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) claims that growing awareness makes it “the most regulated and one of the safest forms of mining in the world”.

Greenland Minerals and Energy (GME) of Australia, the company employing Ib, has an elaborate mitigation plan that is as transparent as Greenland’s institutions to quell the qualms of environmentalists. In turn, they counter argue by claiming that these mines can be exhausted within 40 years, and are therefore not worth the environmental damage caused.

Even if that were to be the case, one must consider the United Arab Emirates wherein 40 years worth of rare earth mineral revenues were enough to transform the desert economy and infrastructure into an exemplary case for any natural resource rich state. There is a smaller local group of scattered sheep farmers and hotel owners that also oppose on environmental grounds. They are employed, albeit for now, so they have the luxury of being able to protest knowing they will still have an income.

Change Needed for Greenland?

The reality is that the majority of the country struggles with rising unemployment, suicide rates, and a staggering 10% emigration record in the past decade. It is not just the country’s exports that need diversifying; all aspects of life are stagnating. As the ice melts, and it inevitably will, more resources will present themselves as readily available for extraction. By taking advantage of climate change rather than stagnating as a quasi-nature-reserve-constituent-country within the Kingdom of Denmark, Greenland offers a revolutionary opportunity for both locals and immigrants.

It is undeniable and at the moment irreversible; Greenland is suffering from a dwindling population. If it is to remain an inhabited landmass for centuries to come, it desperately needs repopulating. Not just any kind, but with a purpose. Thousands of families and even more young men are seeking asylum in Europe away from their war-torn homelands. Effective asylum gives these people a purpose, and an opportunity to build an independent life as well as contribute to the community that they now call home.



Greenland’s mining capacity presents a supply for their demand of employment. Whole communities could be rejuvenated as refugees settle, take part in essential training and set to work alongside the locals. It is a viable opportunity for all; it is not just offering refuge to those who seeking it, but also offering an opportunity to contribute to the local community that their ancestors can later call home.

Moreover, as they seek refuge, their wage demands to companies such as GME will be incomparable to those of Australian or Chinese migrants. Most importantly, relief is offered to European countries under vast socio-economic pressure to deal with the thousands of asylum seekers, whilst not negating the quality of refuge offered.

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