Denmark unveils tough asylum rules to further deter migrants

  • AFP, Copenhagen / Prague
  • Updated: Nov 14, 2015 13:55 IST
A group of migrants check a departure board at Copenhagen Central Station November 12, 2015. The group arrived earlier today from Hamburg in Germany. Instead of continuing to Sweden they decided to get off in Copenhagen. (REUTERS)

Denmark has unveiled tough new measures to deter refugees from coming to the country, including police searches of asylum seekers’ luggage for valuables and cash.

A three-year wait for some family reunification claims and a plan to house migrants in tents has also been added to the plan.

“We are tightening access to Denmark so that fewer people come here,” Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said at a press conference on Friday.

However he said Denmark would not introduce border controls like neighbouring Sweden did on Thursday.

“After less than one day of witnessing Swedish border controls, it is our assessment that border controls would lead to more asylum seekers in Denmark and not fewer,” he said.

Most migrants entering Denmark continue to Sweden, which has issued permanent residency to all those fleeing Syria’s civil war and expects to receive up to 190,000 asylum seekers this year.

The first Danish tent camp, housing 250 male refugees, would be set up next week in the northwestern town of Thisted, the government said.

The initiatives presented by the government also included cutting the residency of refugees covered by the UN Convention on Refugees, from five to three years while permits for those granted regular refugee status would be reduced from five to two years.

Denmark last year introduced temporary one-year residence permits for people fleeing war zones like Syria.

Under the new rules those people will have to wait for three years rather than one year before family reunifications are granted. That means only those whose residence permits are renewed would become eligible.

Danish police will be allowed to search asylum seekers and their luggage for any cash or valuables that could help pay for their stay in an asylum centre.

Items of personal significance, such as wedding rings, will be exempt.

The secretary general of the Red Cross in Denmark, Anders Ladekarl, said he “couldn’t believe his ears” when he heard about the planned tent camps, and suggested their main purpose was to deter migrants from choosing Denmark.

“There is no shortage of properties with a fixed roof. Have we become a Third World country?” he told news agency Ritzau.

Compared to neighbouring Sweden, Denmark has seen a relatively modest rise in asylum applications this year, after introducing temporary residence permits, delaying family reunifications and placing adverts in Lebanese newspapers to discourage refugees.

“While countries around us have seen an explosive growth in the number of asylum seekers, developments have been ... more under control in Denmark until now,” Rasmussen said, adding that 3,600 asylum claims were lodged in October and 1,200 in the past week.

Hungary blasts EU ‘hypocrisy’ over border controls

Meanwhile, Hungary on Friday accused the European Union of “hypocrisy” after fellow EU members began building fences to stop the flow of refugees and migrants, a step for which it had been criticised earlier.

“It’s not entertaining to build a fence on your border. And we don’t do it for fun. But we had to defend ourselves because there is no common European solution,” Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto told reporters in Prague.

“It’s all about hypocrisy,” Szijjarto said.

Speaking in English, he added that “so far Hungary is the only successful country that could stop the influx.”

Slovenia is now building barriers on its border with Croatia while Austria has announced a plan to build a fence on a part of its border with Slovenia.

“We were considered fascists, dictators, someone totally not complying with EU values,” said Szijjarto.

“Now I look at the neighbouring countries -- what have they been doing? Building ‘technical obstacles’ on their borders. But what does a ‘technical obstacle’ mean? Fence and wire,” Szijjarto fumed.

His words angered EU deputy chief Frans Timmermans.

Referring to the stopping of the migrant flow, Timmermans asked rhetorically, “Is it a success that nobody goes to Hungary anymore?”

“My definition of success is whether we get this problem under control. And to get this problem under control we need to work together as Europeans.”

More than 800,000 people have landed on Europe’s southern shores so far this year, the UN said on Friday. Many are fleeing conflict in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

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