Denmark criticised after becoming first EU country to formally strike migration agreement with Rwanda

·2-min read
The Danish government's stance on Syrian refugees has sparked protests - Davut Colak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
The Danish government's stance on Syrian refugees has sparked protests - Davut Colak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Danish government is considering transferring asylum-seekers to Rwanda for processing in a move described as a "new low" in the country's sharp crackdown on immigration.

The Danish parliament was on Thursday due to discuss a new draft bill allowing it to transfer migrants for "adjudication of asylum-claims and accommodation in third countries”.

It comes after Denmark's foreign ministry on Wednesday published a memorandum of understanding with Rwanda stating the Danish government's ambition of processing asylum applications "outside of the EU in order to break the negative incentive structure of the present asylum system".

The deal stops short of including a commitment from Rwanda. Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks, said: “These proposals show that Denmark is shifting their responsibility to protect refugees - it is a new low."

He added that processing refugees in Africa would be "not only unconscionable but potentially unlawful."

Earlier this year Denmark became the first European nation to revoke the residency of Syrian refugees, claiming parts of the war-torn Middle East country were safe to return to.

Denmark is also now the only country in Europe to have begun negotiations with a host country on moving the asylum process overseas.

The UK Home Office was considering a similar scheme earlier this year, with reports suggesting Gibraltar or the Isle of Man could be used to process asylum seekers.

The idea was said to be modelled on a controversial Australian system. Denmark's immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in January that he had held discussions with the UK and Norway over a setting up refugee reception centre in a third country, but nothing appears to have come of the talks.

"Denmark is alone on this plan currently, they've tried to get EU support for this and been roundly rejected by other countries in the European Union," said Tim Whyte, Secretary General of ActionAid Denmark.

In the agreement between Denmark and Rwanda, Denmark commits to help strengthen Rwanda’s capability in “Refugee Status Determination”, the legal or administrative process by which governments or UNHCR determine whether a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee.

Rwanda already hosts an Emergency Transit Mechanism centre for refugees who have been trapped in detention in Libya.

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