Denmark’s left-wing government will begin sending asylum seekers to Rwanda after groundbreaking agreement

Denmark’s anti-immigrant, left-wing government just signed a landmark deal with Rwanda on asylum seekers

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody
Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen addresses the Climate Action Summit in the United Nations General Assembly, at the U.N. headquarters, Monday, Sept. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Instead of migrants waiting in Denmark for their asylum request to be processed, the country’s left-wing government will now begin deporting them to Rwanda after the African country agreed to accept them in a bilateral agreement.

The plan, which has long been a goal of Denmark’s right-wing parties, took more than a year of negotiations, but the policy goal is now closer than ever to being realized. The deal does not apply to only Rwandan migrants — instead all asylum seekers would be forced to wait in Africa until their asylum procedure is finished. The fact that the plan is being implemented by a left-leaning government points to the strange circumstances in Denmark in which the left has embraced many of the anti-immigration polices of the right.

In June 2021, the Danish Social Democratic government passed a law authorizing the outsourcing of the reception — or confinement — ​​of migrants in a third country for the time it took to assess their asylum. However, Denmark also needed to rely on the third countries to actually receive the migrants.

Denmark was in discussion with several African nations, dangling millions of euros in development aid, but so far, Rwanda is the only nation that has agreed, with the kingdom announcing a declaration of bilateral cooperation “envisaging the establishment of a program by which asylum seekers […] could be transferred [there] for the study of their file, as well as the option of settling in Rwanda.” The African country nevertheless has more than 127,000 refugees already on its soil, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has become known for her push to reduce immigration and deport migrant criminals.

“Every fifth young man with a non-Western background born in 1997 had broken the law before turning 21. It’s not everyone. But there are too many young men who take the freedom of others, steal children’s futures, intimidate prison guards – and leave behind a long trail of insecurity,” said the Danish prime minister.

“It has been going on for too many years. Girls who are called derogatory names because they are Danish. Or girls who are subjected to social control because they have become too Danish. A sausage cart in Brønshøj that is attacked with firecrackers because it sells pork,” she said.

Danes are generally supportive of the government’s harsh stance on immigration.

Polling shows the position is popular. A YouGov poll from 2018 found that 65 percent of Danes were against accepting any more migrants. A 2019 poll from the same firm found that 31 percent of Danes believed that immigration provided absolutely no benefit to the country.

Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen, a professor at Copenhagen Law School, said in February of this year that the government’s policies against immigration are working so far, but it may actually be the so-called parties of the “right” who are looking to relax immigration rules. Although he does not specify which parties, those on the right who support neo-liberal economic policies often demand cheap foreign labor to prop up big business and create pressure on wages, a policy seen from the mainstream wing of the Republican Party in the United States over the last three decades.

“A majority of Danes support a very restrictive asylum and migration policy. Most political parties in the Danish parliament also want a change in migration. However, […] recently, for example, voices have been raised, particularly in right-wing parties, for the rules to be relaxed, because the labor market requires more labor work from abroad,” he assumed.

The Danish government’s hardline stance on migration may be a reflection of the serious integration problems with its migrant community, giving rise to the existence of parallel societies and serious strain on the country’s budget through welfare, education, and integration programs. The country’s interior minister, Mattias Tesfaye, has even praised Hungary’s tough migration policy, noting that the country has avoided the crime and integration problems seen in other Western European countries.

“It was a mistake to criticize Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán for raising a barbed wire wall at the border in 2015,” Tesfaye told the press last year after a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels.

By way of comparison, Denmark registers only 1,000 to 2,000 asylum applications per year, with Tesfaye saying it was his “dream” to have zero asylum applications in Denmark.

However, Denmark is no exception in Europe. The United Kingdom has tried the same process of relocating asylum applications to a third country. Despite a similar agreement signed with Rwanda, which was upheld by the British Court of Justice after an appeal brought by associations, the deportations never happened. The first flight scheduled for last June was hampered in extremis by a decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Denmark, also a member of the ECHR, could suffer the same challenges from the controversial judicial body, effectively rendering the democratically elected government’s migration policy null and void. The ECHR has long been accused of being staffed with pro-left judges, many of whom worked in organizations linked with billionaire oligarch George Soros.

Copenhagen stated that it is in discussions with five to 10 African countries but has refused to name them. The country’s press has pointed to Egypt and Ethiopia, but Rwanda has so far been the most serious candidate, with Migration Minister Mattias Tesfaye visiting the African country in April to iron out details of an agreement.

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