In a move already signalled earlier this week, Denmark has said it will not participate in the EU’s plans to resettle some 160,000 refugees within it’s borders. The Integration Minister, Inger Støjberg, commented on Friday that with Denmark would opt-out on at least this EU asylum policy, and that there is “simply no reason” that Denmark should participate in the EU’s plan to resettle asylum seekers
This conformation from Minister Inger Støjberg on Friday signals Denmark’s rather open defiance of the distribution of refugees within their own country marks a swift change in the countries policy. The refusal is made more dramatic by the fact that the plan was championed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday.
“We will not take part in the 160,000 asylum seekers that shall be distributed. We won’t do it because we have an opt-out [on EU Justice and Home Affairs, ed.] and because we are already taking in a great deal now,” said Støjberg in a statement.
Støjberg did add to this statement saying that those that were shocked by this turn of events should not have been. “We have an opt-out – it is very well-known that we won’t participate in the redistribution of these 160,000 so therefore I don’t think this is in any way something dramatic from a Danish viewpoint,” she said.
Speaking to Jyllands-Posten, Støjberg said that she saw “simply no reason” to take some of the asylum seekers since Denmark is already “taking absolutely a very large portion already”. When breaking down the numbers however that is only partially true .
Denmark received more than 15,000 asylum requests in 2014. That figure does not appear very high when considering that places like Jordan have taken in close to 1,000,000 but in relation to its population size, it was the fifth-biggest recipient in the EU, ahead of Germany, according to Eurostat.
According to a memo from the Ministry for Immigration, Integration and Housing obtained by Jyllands-Posten, Denmark could risk exclusion from the EU’s Dublin Regulation on asylum seekers if the nation does not agree to the redistribution plan. Støjberg however has stood her ground so far, she said that she didn’t feel that the plan that Juncker put forth on Wednesday will be approved in its current form anyway.
“If the proposal from the commission is implemented from one end to the other as it looks right now, then it is correct that we sooner or later will face a decision [on Denmark’s continued participation in the Dublin Regulation, ed.]. But I think it would be the first time in Europe’s history that such a major proposal would be but implemented from one end to the other,” she told Berlingske.
The integration minister did wish to stress that Denmark would strongly prefer to remain part of the regulation, which states that the first EU nation to register an asylum seeker must process the claimant’s application. Wishing to remain part of the EU in this regard makes sense for Denmark and their refusal of the bill in its current form may just be the first in a list of countries demanding changes to the document, especially considering the anti-immigration sentiment rising in Germany.
Denmark is part of the Dublin rules despite its opt-out because it entered a so-called parallel agreement with the EU. According to the parallel agreement, Denmark will have to inform the EU if it intends to go along with changes to the regulation. If Danish officials don’t clarify the country’s stance within a given time period, Denmark’s parallel agreement is considered annulled and the agreement void.
Some experts are warning that if Denmark does not go along with the EU plan, and thus ends up excluded from the Dublin Regulation, the nation would become a prime destination for asylum seekers and human smugglers. This appears a leap in logic but it would be because Denmark would no longer have the option of sending people back to another European country once they land on their shores.
Denmark’s opt-out on EU Justice and Home Affairs makes the Nordic nation exempt from having to participate in a shared European approach to the current refugee crisis, even though joining the Europe-wide solution could result in Denmark taking in fewer refugees than it does now.
Denmark will hold a referendum on ending its opt-out on December 3rd, but the new proposed ‘opt-in’ model would have no bearing on Denmark’s asylum and immigration policies as it currently stands.