In 2017, the Oxford English dictionary added “hygge” to its lexicon. Hygge (noun): A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being. The Danish word — many insist it’s limiting to label it a “word” which must have “meaning”, it’s a sentiment instead — sparked serious discussions on quality of life. Where quality isn’t a function of material consumption, but a larger landscape of happiness that can’t be quantified. But, as we near the end of 2018, the very progenitor of “comfortable conviviality”, Denmark, is set to deny that sentiment to a large number of its migrants.
Denmark’s anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, along with the country’s centre-right government, has revealed plans to banish asylum-seekers — those who cannot be deported back to their countries and those with a criminal record — to the isolated Lindholm island. The island, till recently, housed a large lab facility for researching contagious animal diseases. Martin Henriksen of the DPP said it is “a signal to the world that Denmark is not attractive” for migrants. The decision stands in stinging contrast to the shiny bubble of happiness surrounding the nation’s global optics — Denmark has made it to the top three or four on the World Happiness Report, for seven consecutive years. Evidently, the happiness of some lives is less important. Yet this is simply an extension of the larger anti-immigration stance some other countries and the EU have taken. Australia began intercepting “boat people” some years back and authorities in Canberra struck a deal with Nauru, an island country in Micronesia, to house migrants. Recent data from Médecins Sans Frontières has revealed high suicide rates on the island. In 2016, the EU negotiated a refugee agreement with Turkey, where the latter was promised approximately €6 billion in aid for refugees it had to take from Europe. Across nations, migrants are looked at through a subhuman prism — agency-less, to be herded into “shelters”.
India doesn’t even have a legal framework for dealing with refugees — it isn’t a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention for Refugees. Recently, the Supreme Court refused to stay the deportation of seven Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. Illegal immigrants have been described as “termites” by BJP chief Amit Shah. In Assam, the government is on its way to de-legitimising citizens on the basis of religious markers. Countries are trying to invisibilise a problem by trying to pack off, literally sometimes, sensitive issues to places where the foreign policy sun does not shine. Migrants remain a transactional resource for the world order, inhabiting islands that offer neither home nor a semblance of hygge.