SHARE
COPY LINK

IMMIGRATION

Danes reject refugee plea from former Swedish PM

The declaration by Sweden’s former prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt that "there is plenty of space for more refugees" in the Nordic countries was rejected out of hand by Danish leaders.

Danes reject refugee plea from former Swedish PM
"We are not Swedes. We are Danes." Danish politicians rejected the former Swedish PM's criticism of Danish asylum policies. Photo: Bax Lindhardt/Scanpis
In an interview with Politiken over the weekend, former Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt criticised the Danish government’s plans to make resident permits for refugees temporary, saying that there is plenty of room in the Nordic countries to permanently house people fleeing oppression and war.
 
"What does the word 'enough' mean? Is Sweden full? Is the Nordic region full? Are we too many people? We are 25 million people living in the North. I often fly over the Swedish countryside and I would advise others to do. There are endless fields and forests. There's more space than you might imagine. Those who claim that the country is full, they should demonstrate where it is full," the former Swedish leader said. 
 
But Reinfeldt shouldn’t expect Danish politicians to jump on board with his plan to welcome more refugees to the region. 
 
“This is the first time I’ve heard that a country’s geographic size should determine how many people from distant lands can be fit in. That’s a new one for me. But space is not the problem – the problem is that we have huge economic and cultural challenges,” Martin Geertsen, the integration spokesman for opposition party Venstre, told BT. 
 
 
Reinfeldt also made what seemed to be a thinly-veiled jab at the Danes’ strict immigration policies by saying that he distances himself from “those who think that security lies in everyone being the same, being homogenous and keeping out those who are different”. 
 
Mette Reissmann of the ruling Social Democrats summarily dismissed Reinfeldt’s criticism. 
 
“We are not Swedes. We are Danes,” she told BT, adding that Denmark doesn’t share Sweden’s goal of being seen as a “humanitarian superpower.” 
 
“We have the ambition of doing what is right for Denmark. It is about finding a balance, and that’s why we have a law proposal that will tighten our asylum policies,” Reissmann continued. 
 
 
Denmark’s plans to make asylum temporary for Syrian refugees and to limit their ability to bring family members to the country under family reunification have been criticised by the United Nations Refugee Agency and a long line of human rights organisations. 
 
Danish politicians have previously expressed strong concerns that Sweden’s generous asylum policies will affect Denmark, as citizenship agreements between Nordic nations allow refugees who obtain Swedish citizenship to move to Denmark without a Danish resident permit. 
 
Reinfeldt’s successor as Sweden’s prime minister, Stefan Löfven, was forced to call a snap election just three months into his term. In his interview with Politiken, Reinfeldt also said that "there is no place" for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

SHOW COMMENTS