An estimated 7,000 Greenlandic people live in Denmark. Because they have Danish citizenship, there is no official programme to help their integration into the country, despite the huge cultural differences between the two countries.
Greenland is a country of very small and isolated communities. Only 55,000 people live there, with 16,000 in Nuuk, the capital. To illustrate the extent of the country’s isolation, not one city, not even the capital, is connected by road to another city. There are hundreds of kilometres separating the towns, and so much ice that even if there were roads, they would be impassable. The only option is to take a boat or to fly.
The culture and language that have developed around these conditions, as well as the pace and way of life, are very different to those in Europe. It is not surprising then that Greenlanders often find it challenging to integrate into Danish life.
Many Greenlandic immigrants are vulnerable to abuse, homelessness and loneliness. Most are students or have jobs, but between 1,000 and 1,500 are socially vulnerable. Often, they become isolated from Danish life and are stigmatised. The cultural differences tend to go unrecognised, and because there is no national programme to provide the newcomers with social, cultural or practical help, vulnerable Greenlanders often do not receive help until it is too late.
The Greenlandic House, a voluntary organisation with offices in four Danish cities, provides social and practical support specifically to Greenlanders who have just arrived in Copenhagen. The name of its mentor programme is Kammak - Greenlandic for friend.
Kammak has two objectives: to provide a practical introduction on how to cope in Denmark; and to prevent loneliness by providing the immigrants with a social network. Both are crucial to Greenlanders starting off well and building a decent and good life.
Photo: Kammak works to prevent loneliness among Greenlandic immigrants by providing them with social networks. ©Kammak - Jukke Rosing