When the Red Cross emergency response makes a difference

The emergency response ensures a good reception process, even when there are many arrivals

The autumn of 2015 encapsulates what Red Cross is capable of in terms of emergency response. Over a very short period of time, four times as many asylum seekers arrived, compared to a few months earlier.

“Nonetheless, we succeeded in receiving and finding places for everyone, and we are working day and night to ensure that people are received in a safe and decent way,” says Anne la Cour, Head of the Asylum Department.

A basic condition of working in the Red Cross asylum centres is unpredictability. Over the course of 24 hours, some 50 refugees may arrive at the Sandholm Centre to apply for asylum. Over the next 24 hours, the number may be more than 200. This means that at one point, Red Cross can be operating 13 asylum centres, while a few months later the number is 26.

“This is only possible because we are able to act quickly, and because we have an emergency response which works,” Anne la Cour explains.“But first of all, it is about having experienced, resourceful people in our organisation, who can keep a clear head and a warm heart, even on days when many new asylum seekers arrive, all with special needs,” she says.

Robust employees with their hearts in the right place

There are daily examples that the Red Cross Asylum Department is full of robust people with their hearts in the right place.

“Less than six months ago, we had to lay off a lot of really good employees, because the number of asylum seekers arriving was low. Now that we are opening new centres, we need them again. What is so fantastic, then, is that our old colleagues immediately drop everything and are ready to join our effort again. When we call them, many say ’Just tell me where and when, and I’ll be there’ and ’Of course you can count on me’. And this is something very unique to Red Cross,” ,” says Anne la Cour, Head of the Asylum Department.

Asylum centre staff work extremely hard and should be proud of their work

One of the many places where Red Cross staff are ready to back up Anne la Cour’s comments is the Auderød Centre. This asylum centre opened as an extra initial reception centre on September 11, after all places in the Sandholm Centre had been filled up. The Regional Leader was given the keys to the old military barracks in Auderød less than 24 hours before the centre had to be ready to receive its first 200 residents. The following week, the number of residents had grown to 650 and today all beds are in use, a total number of 800. During the first few days there were only a couple of Red Cross employees at the centre. Today there are 50. The head of the centre is Esben Lykke Hegstrup

“The heat is on everywhere. Everyone is working at full throttle all the time,” he says, while one of today’s departure buses is being filled.

Lots of surplus energy among the staff even though the asylum centres are busy

The Auderød Centre is an initial reception centre. In principle, asylum seekers are therefore only there during the initial period, after which they move to a residence centre. Places have to be constantly cleared for new arrivals. But even though the place is busy, there is still time for attentiveness and smiles.

“One of the things that makes us all proud is the fact that we can actually maintain quality in our work, even though the place is busy,” Esben Lykke Hegstrup says. “My employees may not have time for a cup of coffee during working hours. But they are full of motivation and enthusiasm. I love my job, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way,” Esben says, before hurrying on with today’s tightly packed schedule.

One of the many busy people is technical assistant Thomas Hansen who is hard at work cleaning rooms.

“I really enjoy my work. New people are constantly moving in and out. When things are most busy, I average 45 rooms a day – each with five beds,” he says, hurrying on to the next room with his vacuum cleaner.