Why has Denmark named a controversial new 'migration ambassador'?

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Why has Denmark named a controversial new 'migration ambassador'?
Children play outside the tents at a migrant and refugee camp where cases affected by the COVID-19 were detected, on the Greek mediterranean island of Lesbos, on May 13, 2020. AFP

Denmark on Thursday announced the appointment of a special ambassador for migration, tasked with trying to establish camps for asylum seekers outside the EU.


The ambassador's mission will be to knock on doors to find non-EU countries willing to host so-called reception centres abroad to house asylum seekers while their applications are processed.

"An ambassador for migration can help open the door for Denmark's proposal for a new approach to stop the migration pressure on Europe and ensure that real refugees are helped faster and better in the surrounding areas," Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a statement.

For Copenhagen, it is meant to discourage migrants from applying for asylum in Denmark, but also to "strengthen the EU's external borders, improve the deportation of rejected asylum seekers and strengthen asylum and migration authorities in third countries along migration routes," a government statement said.


The ambassador will be Anders Tang Friborg. Together with a task force from the Ministry of Immigration and Integration Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he will both push for reception centres outside the EU and improve the opportunities for repatriating rejected asylum seekers. 

It was in 2018 that Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, before she became Prime Minister, launched the idea of ​​slowing down the flow of migration to Europe by creating reception centres and help in non-EU areas.

However, the plan has been subject to criticism both at home and across the EU.

“I do not think it is a realistic idea. We need to manage migration. It is urgent that we need a new pact that can be accepted by all member states”, said EU Refugee Commissioner Ylva Johansson in December 2019 about the government's plans. 

In January, Danish newspaper Berlingske, quoted Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Mattias Tesfaye as saying that no countries had been found ready to set up a reception centre. 

“Unfortunately no. I would very much like to say that we have been in dialogue with a third country which said that they would like a reception centre, but no one has said that to us”, he said. 

Germany and France were also critical of the idea at the time. However, the government has maintained the plan. In the past, the government has pointed to reception centres in, for example, Libya, Tunisia or Morocco.

In 2019, a total of 2,716 people applied for asylum in Denmark, the lowest figure since 2008.

In 2015, in the midst of the migration crisis, more than 21,000 people applied, though that was only an eighth of the number for neighbouring Sweden. 




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