Knuth's statement came despite a report that refugees may be helping to fill a hole in the jobs market left by a reduction in the rate of workers coming to Denmark from eastern Europe.
The government is currently negotiating changes to its asylum provisions which would herald what is being called a ‘paradigm change’ in the Scandinavian country’s attitude to asylum.
Proposed new rules, which are being demanded by the nationalist Danish People’s Party in return for support for tax cuts, would see all refugees granted so-called temporary asylum (midlertidigt ophold in Danish) denied the right to family reunification and returned to their home country once it is considered to be safe.
Refugees on temporary stays would also be barred from integration services such as language lessons and the so-called ‘basic integration education programme' (integrationsgrunduddannelse, IGU), an apprenticeship scheme introduced – with some success — by the government last year to increase the numbers of refugees in work.
On Sunday, newspaper Berlingske reported that refugees are beginning to take up the slack in the labour sector left by the decrease in people coming from eastern Europe to work in Denmark.
The Confederation of Danish Industry has on a number of occasions stressed the difficulty currently experienced by Danish business in filling jobs, due in part to a fall in foreign citizens coming to work in the country.
But Knuth said that was not a significant factor in the negotiations over new asylum rules.
“The number of refugees on the labour market is fortunately increasing. But at the same time, they do not make up a big part of the jobs market,” Knuth said.
“Overall, refugees are an economic burden for Denmark,” he continued.
Sunday’s article by Berlingske is based on a study conducted by financial company Nykredit.
According to the analysis, foreign labour in Denmark being provided by third-country nationals has for the first time increased more than that from EU citizens.
“If refugees can make a contribution, that can only be positive. But that does not change the fact that, as soon as there is peace in their home country, that have to go back,” Knuth said.
Knuth rejected the suggestion that refugees in work and entirely self-sufficient could be allowed to remain in Denmark.
“If you are here with asylum status, you must go home when there is peace in your home country,” he said.