PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania — Denmark has attracted the attention of many refugees seeking asylum in hopes of finding a better life. Due to the increased migration, the Danish government has sought to tighten security following an influx of asylum seekers. While the strict immigration policies discouraged some from moving to the Scandinavian country, Denmark’s newest law seeks to drastically dissuade refugees crossing the Danish border.
The New Law
After the arrival of more than 21,000 displaced Syrian refugees crossing the Danish border in 2015, the Danish parliament passed new legislation. The new law relocates asylum seekers to third-party countries outside Europe while reviewing their cases. The law, proposed by Social Democratic prime minister Metter Frederiksen, follows the government’s March announcement, which plans to limit ‘non-Western’ immigrants.
According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the new law raises concerns about refugees’ treatment from these offshore facilities. Transferring refugees to outside countries runs the risk of violating international laws concerning human rights. It remains unclear whether refugees will be processed according to Danish laws or the Dublin rules. The new law also does not provide mechanisms to deal with the “overburdening” of the third state.
Denmark’s Shifting Views on Immigration
In 2020, only 1,547 people applied for asylum in Denmark. It is the lowest number since the 1990s, representing a 57% decline since 2019. Frederiksen wants to eliminate asylum applications despite low applicant numbers and see the number reduced to zero. Denmark was once seen as a progressive, safe haven for refugees. However, Denmark recently took a more radical approach towards immigration policies. The shifting views on immigration first appeared during the 1980s as the far-right Progress Party and Danish People’s Party controlled the political arena. However, under the leadership of Frederiksen, policies regarding immigration have become more radical.
Many criticized Denmark’s more recent approach to asylum seekers. However, it is one of many countries that shifted its views. Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany have tough immigration policies. There are many pressing issues, such as focusing on humanitarian efforts for asylum seekers.
According to a source that would like to remain anonymous, providing asylum to those in need is “important because you’re saving a life and giving them a second chance. As a first-generation Iraqi immigrant, viewing the disdain for asylum seekers worldwide is disheartening. Coming from a family of activists, escaping from Iraq proved crucial for their family’s survival. My father was wrongly convicted under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship…my mother was pregnant and fled to find him in Saudi Arabia, and they miraculously found each other. From there, they applied for political refuge because my father was still wanted, and that is how we got here.” The source added that “Here (in the United States) I can live free, study what I want and get a job.” Like this family, countless others move to countries to seek opportunities and new beginnings.
Another interviewee, who would like to remain anonymous, migrated to the United States with her parents from Bucharest, Romania. The family settled down in the U.S. to pursue research opportunities and continue their graduate studies. Despite differing reasons for coming to the United States, the opportunity appears to be a top priority.
Both interviewees share similar views when discussing Denmark’s new law. Due to the limited amount of transparency provided by the Danish government, there is a growing fear of human rights violations. “From what I have read, the route of external holding facilities seems like a string of human-rights abuses waiting to happen.”
There is a major concern regarding the lack of preparation and strategy in Denmark’s policy. As the world watches yet another humanitarian crisis unfold out of Afghanistan, following the collapse of the Afghan government, there is a growing consensus that countries should unite and provide refugees with the right to receive asylum.
Uncertainties remain about the new Danish system and its impact on the international protection system. If other states proposed similar laws, asylum seekers would face additional challenges. According to UNHCR, the responsibilities placed on third countries will “shift burdens” and “frustrate access to international protection.” The offshore practice of transferring asylum seekers to third countries can lead to an indefinite “warehousing.”
The 2015 influx of Syrian refugees into Europe has been met with countries developing stricter regulatory policies concerning immigration control. The Danish government sent asylum seekers to offshore facilities to await the application processing in response to the increased number of asylum seekers. The move comes months after the Danish government announced plans to limit “non-western” refugees from entering the country. Many humanitarian groups and activists have spoken against the decision despite the legislation passing through parliament, calling the move problematic.
There is also a growing concern for asylum seekers due to the current unrest in Afghanistan. Human rights groups press government officials to open their borders with more refugees seeking asylum. More people are becoming aware of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Middle East. Many ask elected officials to shift their stance on immigration.
Fortunately, immigration policies are often the priority. Many governments are finding themselves adapting to the growing calls of their constituents. Immigration control continues to be a hot topic in politics. However, the media projects the civil unrest in real-time for more people to see. The importance of helping asylum seekers shifts public opinion, and elected officials have noticed.
– Jordyn Gilliard