In November 1956, the Danish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, asked a number of Danish organizations to come together to help the 1,000 Hungarian refugees, from the aftermath of the Hungarian Uprising. The Danish Refugee Council was born as an umbrella organization of nine member organizations. It was thought as a temporary creation, but this was unfortunately not how it went.
During the 1960’s, 70’s and 1980’s, the Danish Refugee Council was responsible for welcoming refugees into Danish society. Among other things, the organization coordinated a range of volunteers and did language courses – which it continues to do to this date. Since the early 1980’s, DRC has been offering counselling to asylum seekers in Denmark Additionally the organization has through its history done collections aimed at collecting funds for helping the world’s refugees.
The Danish Refugee Council began its international operations in the early 1990’s when civil war broke out in Yugoslavia. From 1992 and on, Danish drivers conducted hundreds of emergency assistance convoys to Bosnia and later in Kosovo. DRC was at a time responsible for half of all the aid to the conflict-affected persons and established a number of long-term projects for the many displaced people.
In 1997, the Danish Demining Group (DDG) was founded as a collaboration between DRC and a number of other organizations to clear unexploded ordnance and mines. A couple of years later, DDG became an integral part of the Danish Refugee Council. Since then, DDG has cleared mines and other munitions in a number of countries and is today also heavily engaged in Armed Violence Reduction and Mine Risk Education.
In the years after 2000, DRC continued its expansion worldwide and has worked closely with UNHCR to help refugees and displaced persons. In 2000, the organization worked in 15 countries and just five years later, it had expanded its operation to cover 23 countries. Another five years later, the Danish Refugee Council worked throughout 29 countries. Today the total number of countries is more than 35; including asylum counselling and integration work in Denmark.
When civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, the Danish Refugee Council was already operating in the country; assisting Iraqi refugees. This presence had a great impact in 2012, as Danish Refugee Council was the first international humanitarian organization to get the opportunity to work with internally displaced in Syria. From then on, the expansions in operations came in a quick pace. Today, the Danish Refugee Council is one the largest international humanitarian organization working inside Syria itself, but also in neighboring Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Jordan.
Over the summer and autumn of 2015, the situation in Greece and several other European countries developed into a humanitarian crisis which the countries were unable to handle themselves. In the autumn of 2015, DRC stepped in to support the Greek authorities in aiding the refugees arriving in the country. In Macedonia and Serbia the Danish Refugee Council’s opened and expanded existing programs to help the thousands of refugees who wandered through Europe in search of peace and security.
Since then a constant shift in European and global policies and a continuously debate on these issues have also changed the way humanitarian work is seen and being used. Increased displacement and absence of solutions. In addition, refugees and IDPs are part of the irregular migration movements where they mix up with people migrating for a variety of other root causes such as poverty and climate changes – with all groups being exposed to same severe risks and violations en route. Increased pressure on international conventions and asylum system. A situation where political considerations trump legal and moral responsibilities for ensuring that people live in safety and dignity. Displacement is no longer isolated to the humanitarian sphere, but a broader security and development challenge.
The Danish Refugee Council has constantly adapted itself to the developing worldwide refugee situations. Today more than 68 million people have been forced to flee their homes, the vast majority of whom are in the regions of origin, where the Danish Refugee Council performs more than 80 percent of its work.
Today the organization has 8,300 employees in 40 countries – and 8,000 volunteers in Denmark. Each day, DRC strives to do better and assist refugees and the displaced, protect their rights and empower them towards a better future. Unfortunately, the organization is still as needed as ever with continuing growing numbers of displaced globally, new crises erupting and a lack of durable solutions for refugees and displaced.