Tuesday

23rd Jan 2018

Denmark says it already has 'fair share' of refugees

  • Denmark will not be taking part in the mandatory distribution of migrants, says integration minister Inger Stoejberg. (Photo: Venstre, Henrik Bjerregrav)

Denmark will not take part in a mandatory distribution of asylum seekers, as suggested by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Danish integration minister Inger Stoejberg said.

She told told Danish news agency Ritzau on Friday (11 September) that an informal distribution of refugees is already taking place across Europe and that Denmark has granted asylum to 'a fair share' of them.

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  • Danish police estimated that 30,000 people gathered outside the Danish parliament building in Copenhagen on Saturday, shouting "Refugees are welcome" (Photo: EUobserver)

"We take the second highest number [of migrants], if we look at the Syrians, and if we look at all the [migrant] groups, we take the fifth highest", she said.

The announcement comes amid widespread confusion over the rules for registration of migrants arriving in Denmark from Germany in their thousands over the past week, closing motorways and halting public transport.

Denmark is the hub between Germany and Sweden, the two most popular destinations for refugees.

Many refugees have refused registration in Denmark, because their ultimate goal was to travel on to Sweden and further north.

Under the Dublin convention, Danish authorities are obliged to fingerprint newcomers, but have refrained from using force to do so.

Swedish prime minister Stefan Loefven on Thursday slammed the Danes for not fulfilling their international obligations, saying "all countries must register refugees."

But how can Denmark be the first country of arrival, when people arrive by ferry or train from Germany, the counter argument goes.

Danish police accordingly have permitted all refugees to reach Sweden unimpeded, while only fingerprinting those who have requested asylum in Denmark.

The registration of asylum seekers in Europe is regulated by the Dublin convention in order to prevent refugees from seeking asylum in more than one country and to ensure that applications are dealt with in the first EU entry point.

But mass migration has made it impossible for authorities all over Europe to cope with the task.

The situation is unusually complicated in Denmark.

It has opted out of European Union Justice and Home Affairs rules covering some aspects of immigration and as such is not obliged to take part in any EU schemes on sharing out refugees.

But less than three weeks ago the Danish government announced a referendum to be held on 3 December over the opt-outs, recommending to let the reservations go.

In 1992, Denmark was granted four opt-outs in the areas of defence policy, justice, home affairs and the single currency following the Danish no-vote to the Maastricht Treaty. The opt-outs are specified in the Edinburgh agreement and cannot be changed without Danish consent.

The liberal government recommends people to scrap the justice and home affairs opt-outs, saying Denmark would otherwise not be able to participate in Europol and other important EU cooperation ventures.

At the same time it maintains that Denmark will keep out of EU asylum policy areas.

Prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen has announced a visit to Brussels on Thursday (17 September) to explain the Danish position towards council president Tusk and Commission president Juncker.

The Liberals are under pressure from the Danish People's Party, proposing to close Europe's borders as the best way to prevent mass migration.

A Commission spokesman on Friday also tried to clear the confusion and explained that Denmark has 30 days to inform its EU partners whether it wants to participate when an amended Dublin convention is agreed.

"Once the amendment is adopted they have to notify what they want to do. If they want to stay in or not", said the spokesman. "The Ball is with Denmark."

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