Denmark To Shut Doors To Asylum Seekers Outside Europe

Danish immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye (2nd from right) in Rwanda, where reportedly Denmark wants to send migrants for "processing". [@UNDP_Rwanda Twitter]

A country that has already been labelled as the ‘least attractive place for refugees’ with their benefit cuts and border sealing, Denmark has yet again tightened those controls with new legislations. The ruling center-left Social Democratic government passed a law that would allow relocation of refugees to third countries outside Europe, which was approved by 70 votes to 24 in the Parliament.

The Danish Government is in talks with countries outside the European Union to provide shelter to refugees who have fled from conflict-ridden nations, mainly Syria, until their application gets approved. The cases would be reviewed in the third country and potential candidates would be provided protection. This comes as no surprise after the country revoked the residential status of over 200 Syrian refugees last month.

Copenhagen has for years adopted a hostile stance towards immigrants by cutting off their social benefits and slapping restrictions on entry. This time, however, the Danes have sent a clear message stating that asylum seekers are not welcome here. “If you apply for asylum in Denmark, you know that you will be sent back to a country outside Europe, and therefore we hope that people will stop seeking asylum in Denmark,” government spokesman Rasmus Stoklund has told the press.

The authorities have also argued that parts of Syria are now safe for refugees to return and it was made clear that the initial aid provided was temporary in nature. This has put the deported Syrian immigrants in a tough spot as fleeing from the regime has endangered their lives and now returning would further put their safety in jeopardy. Furthermore, the countries in discussion that would act as third parties like Rwanda, Egypt or Turkey have questionable provisions of protection in the first place. Guaranteeing sustainable living conditions of asylum seekers has then become a point of contention in this decision. 

A protest in favor of welcoming refugees in Denmark. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The legislation has met with a lot of criticism from the European Union, which fears that the refugee rights would be violated in the process and this would set a precedent for rest European countries to follow. Thirty-three Euro MPs recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen asking for a “180-degree turnaround” in Denmark’s asylum policy. The UN too has opposed the move with the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR warning that “such practices undermine the rights of those seeking safety and protection, demonise and punish them and may put their lives at risk”.

Charlotte Slente, secretary-general of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), a leading NGO in Denmark has also condemned the move saying, “the idea to externalise the responsibility of processing asylum seekers’ asylum claims is both irresponsible and lacking in solidarity.” She added that the Parliament has “effectively voted in blind” as such a system isn’t in existence yet. 

Denmark was the first country to join the UN Refugee Convention in 1951 and has largely been a supporter of immigrant rights through history. The cruel irony of the current predicament began only in 2015 when there was a sudden surge of asylum seekers from East Europe and the Middle East in Denmark. The approach slowly drifted from integration to repatriation as more and more refugees feel alienated from the general Danish population. The government this year has set a target of zero refugees and plans to shift the funds towards welfare of Denmark. 

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Madhura Rane

Madhura Rane is a Journalism Intern at The Kootneeti

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