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IMMIGRATION

Danish ministers visit Rwanda but stay quiet on agreement

Denmark’s immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye and international development minister Flemming Møller Mortensen travelled to Rwanda this week to sign an agreement with the Rwandan government.

Danish ministers visit Rwanda but stay quiet on agreement
Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye is one of two senior Danish government officials to take part in talks in Rwanda this week. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The trip was not publicised by Copenhagen, but the ministers could be seen in photos tweeted by Rwanda’s foreign ministry.

Both Tesfaye and Mortensen have so far refused to comment on the details of the agreement, according to DR.

The Danish foreign ministry has, however, confirmed that the two countries have agreed to work more closely on asylum and migration, the broadcaster writes.

“This is not a case of a binding agreement, but a mutual framework for future partnership. The two governments will spend the coming period discussing concrete areas where the partnership can be strengthened,” the ministry wrote to DR.

The two Danish ministers have not given any comments to media in Denmark regarding the visit, which was scheduled to last four days, according to the ministry.

“We’re going to work together in different ways, and what’s going to happen next is to see together how we can start implementing what we have signed,” Mortensen said at a ceremony for the agreement, according to Rwandan newspaper The New Times.

The Rwandan media also writes that the agreement will “largely focus on promoting cooperation in political and migration issues”.

“This broad agreement will focus on global refugee issues, both in Rwanda and in other countries, including Denmark, and will return to other topics including investment, trade, sharing of climate change and technology,” Professor Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the East African Community, said according to The New Times.

Although the content of the agreement is unclear, Denmark’s Social Democratic government has a long-standing desire to establish a reception centre for refugees in a third country.

“The two Danish ministers refuse to speak to the Danish press. We can therefore not get confirmation that the two sides have discussed – or agreed – that Rwanda will in future accept some of Denmark’s asylum seekers,” DR’s Africa correspondent Søren Bendixen said to the broadcaster.

Rwanda in 2019 built a centre for asylum seekers stranded in Libya, but that centre has received a limited number of asylum seekers so far, DR reports based on UN data.

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POLITICS

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.

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