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MEDITERRANEAN MIGRANT CRISIS

IMMIGRATION

Denmark to fly refugee surveillance missions

Denmark will contribute a defence plane to fly surveillance missions over the Mediterranean, the Defence Ministry announced on Monday.

Denmark to fly refugee surveillance missions
Migrants wait aboard a wooden boat during a rescue operation in partnership with Doctors Without Borders off the coast of Sicily in the Mediterranean sea on May 3. Photo: MOAS/Jason Florio/Scanpix
A Danish military aircraft will carry out surveillance over the Mediterranean as part of its promise to step up contributions to the Triton maritime frontier mission.  
 
“I am pleased that Denmark can contribute to the EU’s broad spectrum efforts in relation to the refugee influx in the Mediterranean. Watching over the EU’s southern borders in the Mediterranean is a very important assignment that the Danish Challenger plane will now contribute to,” Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen said in a press release after meeting with his counterparts in Brussels.
 
PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt foreshadowed Denmark’s contribution to the Triton mission last month when she met with EU leaders to discuss the migrant crisis. 
 
 
“I expect that today [the EU] will increase contributions to the Triton operation so we can save more lives, and Denmark will also contribute to that,” Thorning-Schmidt said on April 23.
 
Denmark’s opt-out on Justice and Home Affairs keeps it from being a part of the EU’s proposed refugee redistribution plan and its defence opt-out precludes participation in the EU’s plan to undertake a military operation aimed at human smugglers operating in the Mediterranean. 
 
 
The Defence Ministry stated that the defence opt-out does not affect Denmark’s ability to contribute to Frontex, the EU agency that secures the union’s external borders and includes missions such as Triton.  
 
The EU-run Triton operation has been used to partially replace an Italian navy search-and-rescue operation known as Mare Nostrum which was suspended at the end of last year.
 
Denmark has also vowed to contribute 22 people to Frontex operations. 
 
More than 1,800 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean since the start of the year. 

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IMMIGRATION

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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