Denmark to deport migrants to asylum centers outside the EU as part of plans to crack down on immigration
Denmark on Thursday tightened its strict anti-immigration laws by passing new legislation allowing it to open asylum centers outside Europe to which asylum seekers are sent.
The latest move by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s anti-immigration social-democratic government aims to deter migrants from coming to Denmark.
Asylum seekers would now have to apply in person at the Danish border and then be flown to an asylum center outside Europe while their application is pending.
If the application is approved and the person is granted refugee status, he or she will have the right to live in the host country, but not in Denmark.
The bill sailed through parliament on Thursday, supported by a majority, including the far right, despite opposition from some left-wing parties.
The European Commission said on Thursday that the Danish plan violates existing EU asylum rules.
A Kurdish Iraqi enters through the front gate of Kaershovedgaard, a former prison and now a departure center for rejected asylum seekers in Jutland, Denmark, at Mach 2019
A resident climbs through a window in Kaershovedgaard, a former prison and now a departure center for rejected asylum seekers in Jutland, Denmark, 26 March 2019
However, as Copenhagen has an opt-out for EU cooperation on migration and asylum, the Commission would examine the situation “before deciding on any next steps,” spokesman Adalbert Jahnz told reporters.
Denmark has repeatedly made headlines in recent years with its anti-immigration policies, including its official ‘zero refugee’ target, its withdrawal of residence permits from Syrians now deeming parts of the war-torn country safe and cracking down on ‘ghettos’ because of the number of ‘non-western’ inhabitants.
The aim of the new law is to provide a legal basis for the transfer of people seeking international protection in Denmark to a third country, the immigration ministry said.
Denmark would foot the bill, but the processing of asylum applications would be carried out by the host country.
If a person’s asylum application is rejected, the migrant is asked to leave the host country.
But even ‘those whose asylum applications are successful after being exported are not allowed to come ‘back’ to Denmark to enjoy refugee status.
They will simply receive refugee status in the unnamed host country,” migration expert Martin Lemberg-Pedersen of the University of Copenhagen told AFP.
No country has so far agreed to cooperate with Denmark, but the government says it is in talks with five to ten countries without identifying them.
“A system for transferring asylum seekers to a third country should, of course, be set up within the framework of international treaties,” Migration Minister Mattias Tesfaye told AFP.
‘In addition, we must have a monitoring mechanism so that we can continuously ensure that everything is going according to plan.’
He had previously said that the countries do not necessarily have to be democracies “in the way we see things”.
Danish media mention Egypt, Eritrea and Ethiopia as possibilities.
And Denmark and Rwanda signed a memorandum of understanding on asylum and migration cooperation in April, although the document does not specifically deal with external asylum processing.
The new legislation marks a complete turnaround on immigration for the Social Democrats under Frederiksen’s rule.
For years, the populist Danish People’s Party had a monopoly on anti-immigration policies. But their point of view has become the norm, noted political scientist Kasper Hansen of the University of Copenhagen.
Five years after the passing of a law that allowed Denmark to seize valuables from asylum seekers – legislation that made headlines but was rarely implemented in reality – authorities continue to apply deterrence.
The new law is a “continuation of the symbolic policy,” ActionAid Denmark’s secretary general Tim Whyte told AFP.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen arrives for an EU summit in Brussels last month
In 2019, only 2,716 people sought asylum in Denmark, eight times fewer than during the 2015 migrant crisis.
While the initiative will bring political gains domestically, international observers have expressed concerns.
The United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, said the law is “contrary to the principles of international refugee cooperation.”
“By initiating such a drastic and restrictive change to Danish refugee law, Denmark risks starting a knock-on effect, with other countries in Europe and neighboring regions also exploring the possibility of limiting refugee protection on their territory” , UNHCR’s representative in the Scandinavian and Baltic countries, Henrik Nordentoft, told Ritzau news agency.
Denmark is failing its European partners, Whyte said.
Refugees will seek asylum in Germany, France, Sweden. It won’t deter them from crossing the Mediterranean, but they won’t reach Denmark, which, in a sense, is abdicating its responsibilities.’