Denmark election: left and right parties plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda
When the leaders of Denmark’s main political parties clashed last week in the first televised debate of the election campaign, they disagreed on familiar party lines.
But there was one topic they could all agree on, which united left and right: a controversial plan to outsource asylum seekers from Denmark to Rwanda.
Last year Danes approved new legislation to make such a move possible, and by late summer the government of centre-left Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to “jointly explore” the possibility of sending “spontaneous asylum seekers” who arrive in Denmark to Rwanda “for examination of asylum and protection applications, and possibility of settling in Rwanda”.
Although there is no formal agreement between the two countries yet, that is clearly the direction of the trip, with the whole program looking very much like a policy that the UK government is trying to put in place – until now without success.
In April this year, then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an agreement with Rwanda this would see people who enter Britain illegally being deported to the African country. In exchange for their acceptance, Rwanda will receive millions of pounds in development aid. Deportees will only be allowed to seek asylum in Rwanda, not Britain.
Opponents have argued that it is illegal and inhumane to send people thousands of miles to a country they don’t want to live in, and so far no flights have actually left the UK. United for Rwanda after legal interventions to the European Court of Human Rights.
But despite everything, the new British government wants to continue relentlessly – with the Home Secretary Suella Braverman recently stating that it was his “dream” to see headlines about flights of asylum seekers heading to Rwanda in time for Christmas.
So why does Denmark want to send asylum seekers abroad?
The idea of sending asylum seekers to a third country for processing is not the first time that Denmark has outsourced a “problem”.
In April, Denmark have signed a 15 million euro deal with Kosovo to take 300 prisoners.
The detainees sent to a facility near the capital Pristina are all foreign detainees who are to be deported after their sentence.
So — before the Danish general elections on November 1 — why has this particular issue brought together politicians from left and right in Denmark?
The answer is simple: votes.
“It’s true that we have a Social Democratic Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, and she is currently fighting to keep this position. And the important detail is that she has been relatively successful in attracting voters from [far right] Danish People’s Party,” explained Ditte Brasso Sorensenprincipal researcher at Europe think tank in Copenhagen.
While the Danish People’s Party is no longer such an important player in Danish politics, its role has been taken over by the Danish Democrats — so it was perhaps an obvious decision for Prime Minister Frederiksen, who is anyway to the right of the Nordic spectrum. the Social Democrats – and the leaders of other left-wing parties, to try to win back some of those voters by moving further to the right themselves.
“It’s not just Rwanda, every time Frederiksen makes a speech she always inserts a sentence where she says ‘we have to be tough on young migrants living in Denmark who are not integrated enough’, she has this information to give to voters,” Brasso Sørensen told Euronews.
“It’s sobering that they had the first debate between the party leaders, and they were all asked about their position on Rwanda and they had different views – but the whole political center and the right want to move forward with this plan.”
How does the government justify the Rwandan plan?
The Danish government has presented the Rwandan asylum plan as a solution to a “broken” system, and since it has an opt-out option for the EU on justice and home affairs issues, he says he is not bound by EU cooperation on migration, asylum and border policies.
“We are working hard to create a fairer asylum system and we are slowly but surely getting closer. Denmark and Rwanda’s international obligations, which is essential for both countries”, Kaare DybvadDanish minister for immigration and integration, told Euronews.
Minister Dybvad said his country wanted “to find solutions to create a fairer and more humane asylum system, based on orderly and controlled migration, as opposed to the current that plays into the hands of smugglers”.
Critics of the plan say there are real risks of continuing on the path of outsourcing the asylum process to Denmark.
“There is an increased possibility of detaining people in the process, or using force to send them to Rwanda, and that’s not surprising since most people who come to Denmark for asylum, they don’t ‘will not agree to go to Rwanda instead,” said Eva Singer. from Danish Refugee Council.
“All civil society criticized this, and all other organizations working in Denmark with refugees criticized it very clearly from the start,” she told Euronews.
Another problem area is Rwanda’s deplorable human rights record, and the East African nation has come under heavy criticism from Human Rights Watch for the arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture of opponents. government, and the NGO highlighted how fair trial standards are “routinely flouted in many sensitive political cases”.
“Arbitrary detention and abuse of street children, sex workers and petty vendors is commonplace,” HRW said in its latest report on Rwanda.
“The UHCR criticized it very strongly with direct language. The African Union made a very strong statement criticizing the model” (the Addis Ababa-based organization called the plan “xenophobic and totally unacceptable”) “The European Commissioner ylva johansson was also very critical,” added Singer.
Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, called the danish plan “completely unrealistic” and “a flagrant crime against fundamental human rights”.
Will Rwanda’s asylum proposal really come into effect?
Although the government is promoting the prospect of an agreement with Rwanda, and although other political parties have been supportive during the election campaign, this may never materialize.
First, there are plenty of unanswered questions that ministers won’t answer: how much the program would cost and how they would manage to overcome the inevitable legal objections at the European Court of Human Rights.
“This opposition could ultimately mean that it will never happen,” said Ditte Brasso Sørensen.
“If that never materializes, I think it’s a loss that can be suffered by any of the incoming candidates for the post of Prime Minister, as it has always served its purpose of indicating that they are tough on it. migration and that they have a solution to these problems.”
While there is political effort to continue to push for some kind of outsourcing plan, there is also political realism about whether the initiative would actually solve the problem it is meant to solve: at whether it would reduce the number of asylum seekers arriving in Denmark. .
“It will be a headache for the new incoming prime minister anyway,” said Brasso Sørensen.