The Nordic universalist welfare states place great value on promoting gender equality among immigrant minorities. Yet, as this article demonstrates, there is a tension in the Danish asylum regime between the gender mainstreaming objective that is prominent in the integration discourse and policy and the actual practices of migrant camp employees tasked with activation and preparing asylum seekers for integration into Denmark. Based on four extracts from a qualitative study of the Danish ‘activation’ program for adult asylum seekers, this study identifies the lack of structural and social support for familial care work as the main barrier to the equal access of women to the program’s activities (education and vocational training). I find that the objective of gender equality is thwarted by two primary frames: exceptionalism and bureaucratization. These intersect to reinforce ‘traditional’ gender roles and exclude asylum-seeking women with dependent relatives from out-of-home activities. The findings add to our understanding of how migrant women are excluded from citizenship through subtle and complex forms of power at play in cross-cultural encounters between migrant women and welfare state employees who are individualizing the responsibility for women’s success or failure.

DOI: 10.1080/0966369X.2020.1786018
ISSN: 0966-369X, 1360-0524