N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
Thursday last week, the Folketing (the Danish Parliament) passed a law that makes possible to send asylum seekers to a country outside the European Union, where their application will be assessed. The Minister of Immigration and Integration, Mattias Tesfaye (himself of Ethiopian origin!) has been negotiating with Rwanda (which previously accepted 4.000 asylum seekers from Israel) for some time and has also approached Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia.
The law of the Social Democratic minority government, which took office two years ago, is not something new. Already in 2016, a law was passed to make possible to confiscate jewellery, money and other valuables from asylum seekers at the border, to pay for their reception in Denmark. Recently Copenhagen announced that it wants to send Syrian status holders back to their country, because in the meantime it would be safe enough there by now.
All these measures are aimed at realising Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s target of ‘zero asylum seekers’. If we look at the figures her policy seems successful. After peaking at 21.000 in 2015, the number has more than decimated to just over 1.500 in 2020. In handling like this, the party of PM Frederiksen is going further than previous proposals by the radical-right Dansk Folkeparti.
The Danish approach of asylum seekers, strongly criticised by UNHCR, has, so far, not raised any fundamental question by the European Commission, although it is at odds with the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The chance that the Danish Social Democrats example will be followed by other EU member states is not inconceivable. After all, the idea that the number of asylum seekers should be limited as much as possible and that deterrence helps, is not limited to Copenhagen.