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.


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.


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.