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Danish report on Eritrea faces heavy criticism

The Danish Immigration Service’s fact-finding report on Eritrea has come under heavy fire in both Denmark and Eritrea and a key source in the report now says he was “misused” and quoted out of context.

Danish report on Eritrea faces heavy criticism
The Danish Immigration Service's report has come under fire in both Denmark and Eritrea. Photo: David Stanley/Flickr
Gaim Kibreab, a professor at London South Bank University, was featured heavily in the Danish Immigration Service’s report on Eritrea but has now stepped forward to say that he feels “betrayed”. 
 
“I was shocked and very surprised. They quote me out of context. They include me in a context with their anonymous sources in order to strengthen their viewpoints. They have completely ignored facts and just hand-plucked certain information,” Kibreab told Berlingske.
 
 
Kibreab sent a sharply-worded letter to Immigration Service asking to be "dissociated" with the report's findings and saying that the Danish officials ignored a "heavily edited" document that he said he provided in order to clear up misunderstandings from earlier conversations. 
 
"Instead of doing that [using the edited version, ed.] you either used my name generally to lend credibility to your anonymized sources, or picked words of half sentences to fit into your account," Kibreab's' letter, which was shared with Berlingske, read. 
 
The Immigration Service’s 79-page report indicates that the human rights situation in Eritrea may not be as bad as rumoured and that Denmark should no longer offer blanket asylum to Eritreans fleeing compulsory – and often time indefinite – military service. 
 
Using mostly anonymous sources, the report calls into question previous claims that Eritreans can face retribution or even possible death if they flee the country. The fact finding report instead says that Eritreans who have tried to avoid military service can merely sign a repentance letter and agree to pay an extra two percent ‘Diaspora tax’. 
 
The report thus recommends that Denmark only provide asylum to Eritreans who can show that they face a personal threat.  
 
Even before Kibreab stepped forward, many in both Denmark and Eritrea were expressing their doubts about the fact-finding report. 
 
Danish NGOs including the Danish Refugee Council and Amnesty International have advised against using the findings in the report and a campaign group run by former recruits of the Eritrean National Service released a lengthy rebuttal to the Danish report that accuses it of having “looked hard for unlikely pieces of ‘evidence’ (needle in a haystack style) that could be used to support a policy move away from blanket protection.”
 
The Stop National Service Slavery in Eritrea campaign said the Danish report ignored the “vast and well established” human rights violations and instead focused too much on the military service. 
 
“We are… adamant that ignoring the host of other human rights violations being perpetrated  in Eritrea and focusing on ‘absconding’ in isolation will not curb the flow of refugees from Eritrea nor will it reduce the numbers coming to Denmark (or any other country),” the campaign writes. 
 
Denmark called for the fact-finding mission after the number of Eritrean refugees exploded in July

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Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.

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Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.

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