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Could a centrist government change Danish asylum plan?

Acting Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen is leading negotiations to form a new Danish government which she wants to encompass the political centre. That could mean working with parties critical of the Social Democratic plan to process asylum seekers in Rwanda.

Could a centrist government change Danish asylum plan?
Danish immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek during a visit to Rwanda in September. Photo: Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

Frederiksen, now the caretaker PM after her government stepped down on Thursday, is currently leading negotiations to form a new Danish government.

The Social Democratic party leader is in a strong position going into talks after the ‘red bloc’ of left-wing parties won a single-seat majority in Tuesday’s election.

She has confirmed she will seek to form a government across the centre, in line with a pre-election pledge.

“What we will being doing, completely practically, is to invite all parliamentary parties and naturally also the North Atlantic mandates to Marienborg on Friday. The parties will be invited in order according to size,” she told broadcasterTV2.

Senior political editor with TV2 Hans Redder has noted that there are several potential combinations of parties – involving the centrist Moderates (‘M’), the centre-right Liberals (‘V’), the centre-left Social Liberals (‘RV’) and the social democratic Socialist People’s Party (SF) that could give Frederiksen a workable centrist majority.

The Liberals, normally the main opposition party to a red bloc government, are unlikely to govern with Frederiksen, according to an expert.

“There will be negotiations, and the Liberals will come to these negotiations, but they will not last very long,” political scientist Rune Stubager, a professor at Aarhus University, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Danish election result

This leaves the Moderates, Social Liberals and SF.

Reaching an agreement with one or more of these parties could force the government to reconsider its divisive plan to set up an asylum facility in Rwanda.

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, leader of the Moderates, believes international blowback for a centre in Rwanda would be serious, he said in a TV2 debate prior to the election, while the Social Liberals have said they won’t support a government that moves forward with the project.

“The Social Liberals have said they do not want to support any government continuing the plans to work to send asylum seekers to Rwanda,” Stubager said.

The issue has “been lurking in the discussions” during the election campaign, he said.

The government – now the caretaker government – is “allegedly rather close” to closing a deal with Rwanda for the asylum facility, Stubager said.

“The question is, to what extent [the Rwanda plan] is realistic and whether any refugees will eventually end up in Rwanda, that remains to be seen – there’s a lot of scepticism about that,” he said.

The Social Liberals are “very much opposed to this and they have said that they will not support a government that even continues working with these plans,” he said.

READ ALSO: Leader of Denmark’s Social Liberals resigns after election defeat

“That will be one of the tough issues for the negotiations that will now go on,” he said.

Moving part of Denmark’s refugee system offshore to a non-EU country – confirmed in 2021 as Rwanda – is a long-term objective of Denmark’s Social Democratic government.

The plans entail Denmark sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, where their cases would be processed by Danish authorities, instead of allowing them to live in Denmark.

The government has said the plan will reduce people smuggling to Europe and thereby help to reform what it calls a “broken” European asylum system.

Negotiations between the two countries over the specifics of such an arrangement remain ongoing.

READ ALSO:

On Monday, newspaper Jyllands-Posten reported it had obtained internal government documents that appear to counter politicians’ assessments of Rwanda as a suitable location for an offshore asylum centre.

An initial analysis produced by the Danish government in June 2021 showed grave concerns from agency staffers before the government announced plans for a Danish ‘reception center’ for refugees in Rwanda, according to the report.

“There are reports of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in the custody of the authorities. There are no reports that the [Rwandan] government has initiated investigations into these matters,” a Ministry of Immigration and Integration document states according to Jyllands-Posten’s report.

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IMMIGRATION

Denmark demands tougher EU borders to prevent ‘migration crisis’

Eight EU nations including Denmark called on Brussels to significantly toughen the bloc's borders to "prevent another large-scale migration crisis," according to a letter seen by AFP ahead of a key summit.

Denmark demands tougher EU borders to prevent 'migration crisis'

The overall tone on migration has hardened in Europe since 2015-2016, when it took in over a million asylum-seekers, most of them Syrians fleeing the war in their country.

Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Slovakia sent the letter dated Monday to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU Council President Charles Michel.

They said it was “high time” for a “comprehensive European… approach for all relevant migratory routes” to tackle irregular migration.

The letter called for “additional financial support” within the existing budget to enhance “relevant operational and technical measures for effective border control”.

It also urged “significantly increasing swift returns of third country nationals” and concluding new partnerships and safe third country arrangements.   

Some member states are facing “levels of arrivals and applications equivalent to, or higher than, those seen during the migration crisis in 2015 and 2016,” the letter added.

At the end of January, European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said she was confident that asylum reform — under discussion since September 2020 — would be adopted before the European elections in 2024.

The EU has earmarked six billion euros to protect its borders for the 2021-2027 period.

Several countries, including Austria, have called for EU funding to strengthen fences along the bloc’s external borders to reduce the flow of asylum-seekers.

But the commission has so far been reluctant, saying that “building walls and barbed wire” is not the right solution.

EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last month that member states could sign up to a pilot scheme over the first half of this year to speed up screening and asylum procedures for eligible migrants — and “immediate return” for those not deemed to qualify.

Von der Leyen said she wanted the EU to draw up a list of “safe countries of origin”, and for the bloc to strengthen border monitoring on the Mediterranean and Western Balkans routes migrants use to get to Europe.

READ ALSO: Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

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