How many return home again?

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 establish themselves 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 around 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 2022, a total of 222 rejected persons left Denmark, out of these 79 were accompanied/by force and 142 'seen leaving' which means that the police put you on a plane but doesn't accompany. This is not many, considering that 548 were in a position where they are supposed to leave, after a final rejection. Most of the rejected can't be deported for various reasons, even if the Return Agency is trying their best. A large part of the ones who are rejected disappear from the system – trying again in other countries or going under ground. Only very few return to their home countries. Read more about rejection and return in our report 'A firm hand'.

With a residence permit
The number of repatriations is around 300 per year. 2015: 323, in 2016: 301, in 2017: 341, in 2018: 360, 2019: 502, 2020: 349. In total, around 5,800 refugees have returned voluntarily between 2000 and 2020, almost half of them were Bosnians.

Refugees are now only granted 1 or 2 years of permit at a time, and the temporary character is emphasized after the 'paradigm shift'. Information about repatriation has become a mandatory task for the municipalities – which many refugees rightly feel as a bucket of cold water thrown in their face, when they have been granted asylum recently and cannot go back at all.

Repatriation usually takes place after many years, but some Syrians are already deciding to return now. The reason why so relatively few have gone back generally is 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.