Voluntarily or by force?
There are two ways of returning: truly voluntarily or byr more or less force.
The truly voluntary way is called repatriation, anf this is an offer to people who have a valid residence permit. They can get an economic support to esatblish temselves in their home country again and personal counselling. This is done in collaboration with Danish Refugee Council, and the offer has been there for the last 20 years. The website At vende hjem is made for those who consider doing this, and you can read more about DRCs work on this field here (in Danish).
The other way is about people who had a rejection on staying in Denmark. This is rarely really voluntary, but more a question of giving in to the pressure and going back, even if you might be scared and have nothing to come back to. In the police statistics this is referred to as either 'left on their own', 'seen leaving' or 'accompanied leaving'. The last term is a nice word for forced deportation, which may include a flight with strips arounf wrists and ankles, diapers and plastic cover over the mouth. At least one person has died recently during such a transport. If you on the other hand cooperate nicely on going back, you will sometimes and to some countries get an amount of money paid out on arrival, but it will be far less than the repatriation support.
How many leave?
Without a residence permit
In total, 488 rejected persons left Denmark in 2018, of these 111 accompanied/by force and 341 'seen leaving' which means that the police put you on a plane but doesn't accompany. This is not many, seen in the light of a more or less constant number of around 1,200 who are in a position where they are supposed to leave, after a final rejection. Most of the rejected can't be deported for variuos reasons, even if the police is trying. Read more about this issue in our report 'Asylum camp limbo'.
Since 2015 a new phenomen has risen: applicvants who withdraw their application for asylum before getting an answer, or leaving shortly after being granted asylum – in 2017 the number was 185, in 2018 it was 201. This might be due to the fact that it has become harder to get family reunification, and the athmosphere around refugees has become more negative.
With a residence permit
The number of repatriations has been quite stable during the last 5 years: in 2014: 162, in 2015: 152, in 2016: 147, in 2017: 187, in 2018: 176. In total, around 5,000 refugees have returned voluntarily between 2000 and 2018, half of them were Bosnians.
Refugees are now only granted 1 or 2 years of permit at a time, and there is a lot of focus on this being temporary after the 'paradigm shift'. Informatokn about repatriation has become a fixed assignemt for the municipalities – which many refugees rightly feel as a bucket of cold water thrown in their face, when they have just been granted asylum or by no means feel like going back. Even before the new law, it had become almost impossible for refugees to get permanent residence permit.
Repatriation usually takes place after many years, but some Syrians are already deciding to return now. The reason why so few have gone back generally is probably a combination of two things: many conflicts are long lasting, and refugees establish themselves in their host country and feel Danish after a number of years. Especially the children grow up without any strong attachment to their parent's home country.