SHARE
COPY LINK

UN

Danish PM seeks change to UN asylum pact

Denmark's centre-right prime minister on Sunday said he would seek a revision of the UN Refugee Convention, as Europe faces its worst migration crisis since World War II.

Danish PM seeks change to UN asylum pact
Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen appears on the TV2 channel. Photo: TV2/Screen Grab
“If this continues or gets worse… we will get to the point where we'll have to talk — and Denmark won't be able to do it alone — about adjusting the rules of the game,” Lars Lokke Rasmussen told TV2 television.
   
The Danish premier, whose Venstre party rules with the backing of the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DPP) in parliament, said the 1951 treaty should be revised in order to clarify the rights of refugees in the first country they fled to.
   
“If someone seeking shelter from war has lived for two or three years in Turkey, should he then go to Europe and seek asylum there? As they stand today, the rules allow people to do that, but we are going to have a discussion about that,” he told the Danish television channel.
   
The prime minister believes the European Union, of which Denmark is a member, should lead an effort to modify the convention, which came into law just six years after World War II ended.
   
The Danish government's policies on migrants have triggered global controversy, most recently with a plan to seize migrants' valuables and cash.
   
The plan, which parliament will vote on in January, sparked comparisons to Nazi Germany's seizing of gold and valuables from Jews and others during World War II.
   
From January to November, 18,000 people requested refugee status in tiny Denmark, which is home to some six million people.  
 
Meanwhile neighbouring Sweden expects the number of requests for 2015 to climb to nearly 190,000.
   
According to the UN, Turkey is hosting more than two million Syrian refugees.

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