Danish opposition leader expects ‘some’ refugees to have long-term future in country

Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, the leader of the opposition Liberal (Venstre) party, thinks some refugees will probably remain in Denmark for the long term if conflicts in their homelands continue to rage.

Danish opposition leader expects 'some' refugees to have long-term future in country
Jakob Ellemann-Jensen. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The comments from the new Liberal leader, made in an interview with Weekendavisen, appear to be in contrast to a policy known as ‘paradigm shift’ adopted by Danish conservative parties under the previous government, based on the principle that refugees should be sent home as soon as it is deemed safe by authorities to do so.

READ ALSO: Denmark's parliament passes 'paradigm change' asylum bill

“If you have fled from war, death and destruction in your home country, you should in principle go back when the situation is over. But that still means that while you are in another country, you should work and participate in society,” Ellemann-Jensen said.

“If there’s been conflict in the home country for 15 or 20 years, and people have children who have grown up here does it make sense to talk about going back to home countries or does it not?”, he continued.

“The reality is that some will probably end up staying and so we should prepare ourselves for that, including by making sure they find jobs,” the Liberal leader said.

A report on Friday meanwhile revealed that 71 Syrian refugees have since May 1st been paid by the state to leave Denmark, under an incentive scheme.

READ ALSO: Denmark pays 71 Syrians to leave country

Ellemann-Jensen also told Weekendavisen that he could understand why refugees look to Denmark for asylum.

“That doesn’t mean that all of them should be here. But it does mean we should be decent in how we speak about and to other people,” he said.

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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.