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IMMIGRATION

Danish minister hails ‘lovely numbers’ as refugees leave

Denmark's integration minister has celebrated statistics showing more people with refugee backgrounds leaving the country than arriving as "lovely numbers".

Danish minister hails 'lovely numbers' as refugees leave
Mattias Tesfaye together with Pia Kjærsgaard, the former leader of the Danish People's Party at parliamentary meeting on the closing of an immigration centre in northern Zealand in February. Photo: Ni
According to the analysis by the Ministry of Immigration and Integration, the number of people granted asylum in Denmark who had chosen to leave the country in last year, exceeded new arrivals by 730. 
 
This was the first time more people with refugee backgrounds have left the country than arrived since 2011. 
 
“I am pleased, first of all, because it shows, in part, that we can keep the influx at bay by pursuing a sensible policy in Denmark,” Mattias Tesfaye, the integration minister, said as the analysis was released. 
 
“But also because there are refugees who would like to receive a bag of money and travel home and rebuild their own country.” 
 
About 500 of those who returned were taking part in a repatriation program in which Denmark's government pays for travel and offer refugees a small sum to help them resettle in their homelands. 
 
 
Eva Singer, the head of asylum at the Danish Refugee Council, told The Local that she saw no reason to welcome the figures. 
 
“This would be good news if it was a picture of the refugee situation globally —  if the lower level of asylum seekers coming to Denmark had been caused by a lower number globally in need of protection. But it is obviously not, because the number of refugees globally has increased.” 
 
The integration ministry's analysis showed that refugees from Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Bosnia-Herzegovina had been the most likely to return to their homelands. 
 
On the other hand, there were still more refugees arriving from Eritrea, Iran and Afghanistan than were leaving Denmark. 
 
Singer said that those who had taken part in the Danish government's repatriation programme, when surveyed, gave many different reasons for their decision. 
 
“Some of them mentioned that it's very difficult in Denmark to learn the language, and also to get access to the labour market and if you don't get a job, it's very difficult financially.” 
 
She said the tough rhetoric and measures from Danish politicians  in her opinion, only played a secondary role. 
 
“The hostile environment is part of it, but it's not the main reason, I think.” 
 

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IMMIGRATION

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.

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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.

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