Helle Thorning-Schmidt is considered a strong candidate to the fill the post of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), but the agency that she could be heading has been a very vocal critic of the policies she implemented while Denmark’s prime minister.
As PM, Thorning-Schmidt introduced new, one-year temporary residence permits
for refugees fleeing the civil wars like the one in Syria so that they could, in the words of her justice minister, "be sent home as soon as conditions improve in the home country".
“It is unrealistic to believe that Denmark can isolate itself from what is happening globally. If there are conflicts and disasters, they are something that we must all take responsibility for. If we talk about Syrians – most of whom, we believe, are refugees under the international convention – and you don’t immediately give them family reunification, you are on the edge of international law,” Pia Prutz Phiri, the UNHCR’s regional head in northern Europe, told public broadcaster DR in October.
The following month, the UNHCR filed an official statement
to the Danish parliament, calling on the family reunification restrictions to be dropped and urging Denmark to reconsider other elements of its asylum policies.
Likewise, the person currently holding Thorning-Schmidt’s coveted post, former Portuguese PM Antonio Guterres, indirectly criticized Denmark
for its unwillingness to participate in a European quota system when he visited Stockholm in February.
"Quota systems are always an extreme solution. Ideally, the system would work naturally to produce a fair share among European countries,” Guterres said.
“I stand fully behind the decisions I made as prime minister and one should remember under all circumstances that Denmark is a strong partner with the UNHCR and has been that since it began way back in the 1950s,” she told reporters.