Denmark’s immigration minister to skip international meeting on UN’s migration pact

Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg will not be in attendance on Denmark’s behalf when the country becomes a signatory to the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at meetings in Morocco on December 10th and 11th.

Denmark’s immigration minister to skip international meeting on UN’s migration pact
Minister for Immigration and Integration Inger Støjberg. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

The compact marks the first time the world organization has agreed on a list of global objectives to tackle the challenges involved in migration for individual migrants, and at the same time to maximize benefits for the countries taking in immigrants.

A legally non-binding agreement, it includes a stated intention to give vulnerable migrants equal status to refugees and to work against economic support for media that spread intolerant views on migrants.

The text also provides for easier repatriation of migrants and is intended to help organize migration more effectively.

Not every country supports it. Among others, the United States, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Slovakia have spoken out against the pact.

It has also has been a source of debate in Denmark, with critics including nationalist politicians saying it does not reflect Denmark’s politics on immigration. Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen has spoken in defence of Denmark’s participation.

“The government would never dream of signing something that weakens our ability to implement the strict immigration policies we have in Denmark,” Rasmussen said in parliament last week.

Støjberg had been scheduled to represent Denmark at the meetings, but will now not take part, Jyllands-Posten reports.

“I have not previously participated in conferences of this kind and I don’t see myself as a participant in this one,” the minister said.

The government was reported to be considering sending Minister for International Development Ulla Tørnæs or an alternative official to represent the country. But Tørnæs, who had originally been scheduled to accompany Støjberg, said to Jyllands-Posten on Tuesday that she would not participate, noting that it was Støjberg's ministry which had been involved with negotiations over the compact.

The UN has requested high-level officials attend the meeting on their countries’ behalf.

Germany is sending Chancellor Angela Merkel to the conference, while deputy foreign minister Marianne Hagen will attend from Norway. Sweden, which is currently mired in ongoing negotiations to form a new government, has not confirmed its plans.

READ ALSO: German government backs controversial UN migration pact 


‘We’ll take quota refugees’: Denmark to UN

Denmark is set to resume accepting refugees under the UN’s quota system after a three-year hiatus.

'We’ll take quota refugees': Denmark to UN
Syrian refugees at the al-Za'atari refugee camp in Jordan in 2012. File photo: Majed Jaber / Reuters / Ritzau Scanpix

Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye has informed the UN’s arm for refugees, UNHCR, that Denmark will take in refugees protected under the UNHCR quota system from this year.

“I informed (the UN on July 11th) that Denmark wishes to accept a small group of quota refugees who require special [medical, ed.] assistance from 2019,” Tesfaye told newspaper Politiken in a written message.

A number of steps are involved in the process of deciding which refugees will be taken in by Denmark, the minister said.

“It’s too early to say when the first quota refugees can be accepted, just as the exact number for 2019 is yet to be confirmed,” he said.

Previous annual numbers of UN quota refugees have been around 500.

The government decision on the issue was set out in the agreement reached between Tesfaye’s party, the Social Democrats, and three left-wing allied parties in the political agreement which followed the general election in June.

That deal enabled the Social Democrats to form a minority government as Denmark’s left won an overall majority in the election.

In addition to the group cited by Tesfaye, the immigration ministry has also informed UNHCR that it will accept general quota refugees from 2020.

Denmark first refused to take refugees from the UN’s quota system for resettlement from its UNHCR camps under the previous government in 2016, citing a need for “breathing space” to manage those already in the country. The policy was renewed annually up to and including last year.

The UNHCR’s North Europe spokesperson Caroline Bach praised the decision by the Danish government.

“With an increasing number of refugees who have a pressing need to be resettled, these gestures of solidarity are more important than ever,” Bach said according to Politken’s report.

The anti-immigration Danish People’s Party (DF) called the decision a “break of campaign promises” by the Social Democrats.

“We consider this a break of campaign promises made by the Social Democrats during the election to retain a strict immigration policy,” DF parliamentary group leader Peter Skaarup said.

READ ALSO: New Danish government to scrap plans for 'deserted island' deportation facility