Denmark vows to fix 'dysfunctional' asylum system

New coalition calls for reception centres outside Europe's borders

Denmark's tough stance on Syrian refugees has led to protests in Copenhagen in recent years. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

A new government in Denmark has promised an asylum shake-up to stop unwanted refugees from reaching its borders.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's coalition wants a joint EU reception centre to handle asylum claims outside Europe.

It says money used to look after refugees in Denmark could be better spent tackling the causes of migration at source.

Denmark receives about 1,000 to 1,500 asylum claims a year, far fewer than some European countries.

But Ms Frederiksen, a Social Democrat, promised at last month's election to maintain her hard line on immigration.

Despite winning a thin majority, she chose to form a unity government with the Liberals and Moderates.

A 63-page joint programme describes Denmark's current asylum system as “inhumane and dysfunctional”.

It said climate change, population growth, instability and a lack of opportunities for young people would only add to the pressure on Europe's borders.

“Denmark must fundamentally contribute to combatting the causes of migration and refugee flows. This requires ambitious climate action and sustainable economic development in Africa in particular,” it said.

“Resources that are currently used to deal with the spontaneous influx of refugees and migrants, many of whom are not entitled to protection, could instead be used for more aid and assistance in their neighbourhood and along migration routes.”

The coalition deal calls for agreements modelled on a pact between the EU and Turkey, under which Turkey is paid to stem the flow of Syrian refugees.

It says a reception centre outside Europe should be run jointly by the EU or by Denmark and other partners.

“The government will engage in all possible solutions that comply with international conventions and Denmark's EU legal obligations,” the new coalition agreement says.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, centre, with her new coalition partners Jakob Ellemann-Jensen and Lars Lokke Rasmussen. AFP

A new government in neighbouring Sweden has also promised asylum reform so that it is “not more generous than required”.

Curbing immigration was the central demand of the right-wing Sweden Democrats before a September election that made them kingmakers.

Denmark, like Britain, has already enlisted Rwanda as a place to deport failed asylum seekers.

Ms Frederiksen's government last year attracted controversy by saying Syria was safe for people to return.

Lars Lokke Rasmussen, a former prime minister who founded the Moderates last year, was on Thursday appointed foreign minister in the new government.

As prime minister he sought to deter migrants with controversial measures such as a “jewellery law” that allows police to confiscate valuables.

Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war with Russia are exempted from this measure. About 30,000 have taken shelter in Denmark this year.

Updated: December 15, 2022, 9:41 AM