Harder for Denmark to return asylum seekers within EU: report

It has become more difficult for Denmark to return asylum seekers to other European countries in which they were previously registered.

Harder for Denmark to return asylum seekers within EU: report
File photo: Erik Refner/Ritzau Scanpix

Ministry of Immigration and Integration figures show a drop in the proportion of people who left Denmark on this basis, newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad reports.

In 2013 and 2014, other European countries refused to accept returning asylum seekers in 10.7 and 22.5 percent of cases respectively.

That measure increased to 48 percent in 2016 and 34 percent in 2017.

Marlene Wind, a professor at the University of Copenhagen who specialises in EU law and politics, said she was surprised at the lack of agreement between Denmark and European countries on how to manage migrants that move between states.

“The Dublin rules state that there must be reciprocity in relation to asylum seekers whose cases have already been assessed in another EU country. That means it should be possible to send an asylum seeker back to the first country in which that person was registered,” Wind told Kristeligt Dagblad.

“So it surprises me that this is not working. But it shows, as experts have said for a year, that the Dublin Regulation is not working,” the professor continued.

Government leaders from across the EU last week met a summit in Brussels, where the issue of how to manage migration and refugees was top of the agenda.

At the summit, Germany secured an agreement with other EU countries to send some of its asylum seekers back to EU states in which they were originally registered after arriving in Europe, in accordance with the Dublin Regulation.

Researcher Catharina Sørensen of Danish thinktank Tænketanken Europa said one of the problems with returning asylum seekers was historical precedent.

“During the migration crisis [in 2015, ed.], several countries failed to register asylum seekers, who were then able to trickle up through Europe.

“Now Germany is pushing for the rules to be followed. But there is a risk of the system breaking down because there remains a strong desire to limit migration,” Sørensen told Kristeligt Dagblad.

READ ALSO: 'We can do it alone': Danish PM on foreign-based refugee expulsion centre


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.