Denmark in talks with Rwanda on UK-style transfer of asylum-seekers

Deal with Rwanda would make Denmark the first EU member to effectively bypass the bloc's fragmented system

Demonstrators last November with a banner reading 'Syria is not safe' during a protest against the deportation of Syrian families from Denmark to their homeland. AFP
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Denmark is in talks with Rwanda to transfer asylum seekers to the East African nation, similar to the recent plan announced by Britain that has proved so controversial.

The move would send migrants arriving in Denmark, just south of the Arctic Circle, about 6,600 kilometres to East Africa and a country just south of the equator.

A deal would also make Denmark the first European Union member to effectively bypass the bloc's fragmented migration and asylum system.

The revelation comes days after the UK announced its deal with Rwanda that has created days of controversy for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In the UK, the government is promoting it as a way to dissuade migrants using the English Channel route to enter the country, and to remove human traffickers from the system.

Danish Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye: 'Our dialogue with the Rwandan government includes a mechanism for the transfer of asylum seekers.' Reuters

Opponents include the country’s most senior Christian leaders, the UN and charities working with refugees.

In Denmark, Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said it also wanted to cut human traffickers from the migration equation.

He said wants to “ensure a more dignified approach than the criminal network of human traffickers that characterises migration across the Mediterranean today” .

“Our dialogue with the Rwandan government includes a mechanism for the transfer of asylum seekers,” he said.

Denmark has introduced increasingly harsh immigration policies in the past decade, and passed a law last year that allows refugees arriving on Danish soil to be moved to asylum centres in a partner country.

That move drew criticism from human rights advocates, the UN and the European Commission, but Denmark failed to find a partner country at that time.

The EU Commission has said relocating refugees outside Europe is “not possible” under current EU rules but Denmark is exempt from some EU rules, including asylum standards, because of an opt-out.

EU countries previously discussed setting up external centres to receive refugees in 2016-2018 after a surge in Mediterranean arrivals, but legal, humanitarian, political, safety and financial concerns at the time eclipsed the proposals.

Sending asylum seekers abroad for processing is “both irresponsible and lacking in solidarity”, said the Danish Refugee Council, an NGO.

Denmark has not yet struck a deal with Rwanda, Mr Tesfaye said, but immigration speakers in parliament have been summoned to a meeting on the matter on Thursday next week. The government needs parliamentary backing for a potential deal with Rwanda.

Updated: April 20, 2022, 2:41 PM
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