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20th Jan 2022

EU commission takes stand against Danish asylum law

  • Denmark wants to offload asylum to countries outside Europe (Photo: News Øresund - Johan Wessman)

The European Commission has taken a firm stand against Denmark's plan to outsource asylum.

EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, on Friday (18 June), warned it could create a "knock-on effect to neighbouring EU countries" like Germany and Sweden.

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She also said it goes against the Geneva Convention on refugees, which offers people a right to asylum.

"A system aiming for external processes outside the EU instead of protecting the right to apply for asylum in the EU would send a strong and wrong signal to the outer world," she said.

She did not name Denmark, but the message was clearly directed at Copenhagen.

The comments, posted on her blog, follow recent and controversial Danish legislation to offshore the entire asylum procedure to countries outside Europe.

It also comes after Austria's interior minister Karl Nehammer spoke out in defence of the new Danish law, describing it as a "compelling approach".

The European Commission had earlier said such outsourcing was illegal under EU law, noting it guaranteed the fundamental right to asylum.

However, Denmark's special opt-outs on EU asylum is proving tricky.

"This would be difficult to challenge on the basis of EU law," said Catherine Woollard, secretary general of the Brussels-based NGO European Council on Refugees and Exiles (Ecre).

She said Johansson's message was also directed at other EU states flirting with similar ideas.

"There has been too much time wasted already on these kinds of fantasy options," said Woollard.

She described it as part of a larger "form of externalisation" that sought to shift responsibility onto other countries outside Europe.

This includes an EU deal with Ankara for migrant returns, as well as wider EU-state refusal to cooperate on search and rescue operations.

Greece had also recently declared Turkey a safe country for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Syria and Somalia.

Almost 80 percent of all people granted international protection in Greece originated from one of the listed countries.

NGOs say the decision by Athens to designate Turkey safe is a further erosion of the Geneva Convention.

In a joint-statement, the German NGO Pro Asyl and the Greek NGO Refugee Support Aegean, say it "dismantles the minimum safeguards of the afflicted Greek asylum system."

They noted that the EU's asylum support agency office (Easo) has already trained Greek case workers for the new legal regime.

When pressed on the issue earlier this month, Johansson had offered a mixed response.

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