Danish parties strike deal to evacuate some Afghan employees

Denmark’s political parties have struck a deal to allow some of the Afghan staff who have worked for Danish forces in Afghanistan to be evacuated and given temporary residency in Denmark for two years.

Danish parties strike deal to evacuate some Afghan employees
Danish forces in Afghanistan relied heavily on local translators. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

The first 45 staff will be evacuated to Denmark as soon as possible, with further evacuations set to happen gradually over the coming months. Evacuated former staff will be able to bring their spouses and any children under the age of 18. 

“The security situation in Afghanistan is serious. The Taliban are gaining ground and development is accelerating more than many had feared,” reads the text of the agreement, which was released at just before 10pm on Wednesday night.

“We have a common responsibility to help the Afghans who are now threatened due to their connection and contribution to Denmark’s involvement in Afghanistan.”

Foreign minister Jeppe Kofod speaks to media during the inter-party meeting on Wednesday. Photo: Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix

The agreement was reached between all of Denmark’s parliamentary parties apart from the populist, anti-immigration Danish People Party and New Right Party. 

The right to be evacuated to Denmark extends only to the current staff of the embassy in Kabul and to those who have worked for either the embassy or the Danish Armed Forces in the country over the past two years.

Those employed by Danish forces longer ago will still be able to apply to be evacuated under an existing law on translators, but this requires that the person seeking evacuation is personally under threat. 

Before being evacuated, current and former employees would need to pass a security screening involving interviews with immigration officials and “other relevant authorities” to make sure that they do not pose a danger to Denmark’s security.  

Any employees who have previously been found guilty of committing a crime will be barred from the scheme. 

Peter Skaarup, legal spokesperson for the Danish People’s Party, said that he suspected that those who are given refuge would end up staying in Denmark. 

“That’s what’s been the situation in the past,” he told state broadcaster DR. The thing is that the people in question end up staying in Denmark. Therefore, I do not believe it is only for two years. I think it will be for a long period, for their whole lives, that the people in question stay in Denmark.” 

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Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

A new poll indicates a majority of Danes is in favour of scrapping the country’s EU defence opt-out in an upcoming referendum.

Poll suggests Danes ready to scrap EU opt-out in referendum

The poll, conducted by Epinion on behalf of broadcaster DR, shows 38 percent of voters in favour of revoking the opt-out, compared with 27 percent who want to retain it.

28 percent said they do not know how they will vote, meaning there is still plenty of potential for both a “yes” and “no” outcome in the June 1st vote.

An earlier poll, conducted in March, put the two sides closer, with 38 percent of eligible voters then saying they would vote ‘yes’ to scrapping the opt-out, with 31 percent saying they would vote ‘no’ and 31 percent saying they didn’t know.

The government announced in March a June 1st referendum in which citizens will decide whether to overturn Denmark’s opt-out from EU defence policy. The referendum was called following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Denmark’s opt-out – retsforbehold in Danish – is one of four EU special arrangements negotiated by the Scandinavian country, and has seen it abstain from participation in EU military operations and from providing support or supplies to EU-led defence efforts.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark have four EU ‘opt-outs’ and what do they mean?

In April, the wording of the question on voting ballots for the referendum was changed, following objections from politicians opposed to scrapping the opt-out.

According to a breakdown of the new poll, younger voters and women are the most undecided groups. 20 percent of men said they were unsure how to vote compared to 38 percent of women.

Among 18-34 year-olds, 39 percent were unsure how they would vote compared to 22 percent of voters over the age of 56 who have yet to decide how to cast their votes.