Denmark’s asylum policy is now just a deterrent

Denmark's asylum policy is now just a deterrent

Denmark will send asylum seekers to a country outside Europe, where their applications will be evaluated. Last Thursday, the Danish Parliament passed a law that makes this possible. Immigration and Integration Minister Matthias Tesfaye (himself of Ethiopian descent) has been negotiating with Rwanda (which previously accepted 4,000 asylum seekers from Israel) for some time, and has also reached out to Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia. In the event that these asylum seekers are recognized as refugees, this does not mean any trip to Denmark, but that they must be accommodated there.

This law of the Social Democratic minority government, which took office two years ago, does not stand alone. Already in 2016, a law was passed that made it possible to confiscate jewelry, money and other valuables from asylum seekers at the border, on the grounds that this may pay for their reception. And recently the government announced that it wanted to return the Syrian status holders to the Damascus area, because it would be quiet and safe enough there now.


All of these measures are aimed at the current Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s goal of “zeroto achieve asylum seekers. Because of the deterrent effect, the government hopes asylum seekers will think twice before coming to Denmark.

If we look at the numbers, this policy appears to be working. Having peaked at 21,000 in 2015, the number has fallen to more than 1,500 in 2020. In doing so, the Social Democrats go further than previous proposals made by the radical right wing Dansk Folkeparti (a type of PVV).

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Read also: Denmark returns refugees: ‘If we reach Syria, my husband will be killed’

This extreme policy, which has since been fiercely criticized by the UNHCR and about which the European Commission also says it has fundamental questions, runs counter to the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The basic idea of ​​this is that people who have sought refuge are accepted and thus are granted Accepting them into the new society to build a new life there as new citizens. This enhances the integration process and makes it possible to make future plans for themselves and their children.


With the law making it possible for Syrians to return, beneficiaries who have been in the country for less than ten years can still be offered, no matter how well integrated they are. The consequences are clear: second-class citizenship, permanent insecurity and marginalization.

In the 1930s, “refugees” were treated with eugenic measures

The Rwanda plan also contradicts the basic rules of the International Refugee Treaty, in part because it hands asylum seekers to the systems of countries that – to put it mildly – pay little attention to human rights, and because the plan actually allows refugees even after their asylum claim has been recognized.. to leave their fate.

Denmark is here one step further from the European Union. Turkey’s agreement and subsequent agreements with African countries such as Chad and Mali to prevent migrants from traveling across the Sahara to North Africa are also forms of diverting migration and refugee policies abroad. With the aim of making applying for asylum in Europe as difficult as possible.

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The illegal turnover of boats with asylum seekers by the Greek Coast Guard and Frontex is also in accordance with this Fortress Europe policy. Despite international criticism, the chance that other EU member states will follow the Danish example is not at all fanciful. After all, the idea that the number of asylum seekers should be as limited as possible and that deterrence helps, is not limited to Copenhagen.

Also read the column by Caroline Rowlants: Denmark believes that the Syrians can return. Who follows?

The fact that a social democratic government takes such radical xenophobic measures is often seen as a strategic choice to take the wind out of the sails of the radical right. Regardless of whether that actually works (Frederiksen’s party won just one seat in 2019, while the Radical Socialists and Social Liberals won seven and eight seats respectively), this idea ignores a specific Scandinavian Social Democratic vision of citizenship.

For example, the Social Democrats also support the previous (right-wing) government’s “ghetto deal” to punish residents of neighborhoods classified as “ghettos” – with more than 50 percent of immigrants – including family members of criminals. The plan also aims to demolish some of the cheap homes and force residents to settle elsewhere. The fact that the government is fundamentally obsessed with the image of Islamization and parallel societies – but supported in part by facts – explains why the indigenous slums are left to themselves.

It stands as a re-education

This combination of deterrence and forced unilateral assimilation is rooted in the social democratic ideals that developed in countries such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark in the 1930s. The central idea wasFulkhmetThe state is the home of the people. This form of socialism focused more on the racial and social similarities of citizens than on class divisions.

The state was seen as a re-education and citizens who withdrew from it (“antisocial”) faced eugenic measures, including forced sterilization. In the meantime, a second “social issue” has arisen and the so-called “maladaptive” immigrants have been replaced by the indigenous population, who are again treated with highly repressive policies.

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