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Denmark: Lowest number of asylum seekers ever

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen recently announced that Denmark's goal is to receive 'zero' asylum seekers. Achievement of this goal seems to be rapidly approaching. Last year only 1 547 people asked for asylum in Denmark, a quarter of whom already had a residence permit (usually via family reunification).

This is the lowest registered number of asylum requests since the current counting method was introduced in 1998, and only a tenth of the number registered in 2016. It also represents a drop of 57% from 2019. The recognition rate was 43%, resulting in 432 new refugees settling down in Denmark in 2020, a country of almost six million people.

Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye commented: 'Part of the explanation is probably the coronavirus situation. But I think we can also thank our strict policy on foreigners for this.' He also mentioned the government's plans to establish a centre outside Europe where Danish asylum applications will be processed - a highly controversial plan which has been met with serious concerns about human rights and legal guarantees, relating to a number of conventions which Denmark has signed.  

Another exceptional situation is also on its way: the Refugee Appeals Board, which is the second and final review point for Danish asylum cases, is expecting to handle 6-700 cases of revoking or not extending residence permits for refugees who are already living in Denmark, which will exceed the number of new appeal cases for the first time ever. This is the result of legislation from 2015 making it much easier to withdraw a refugee's permit, combined with reports from Syria that general security in the Damascus region has improved.

When it comes to refugee and legal issues, Denmark does not subscribe to EU rules, and has refused to participate in a voluntary distribution agreement within EU. It is, however, part of the Schengen and Dublin agreements.

For a period of 38 years Denmark accepted 500 refugees per year via the UN resettlement programme, but this has been canceled since 2015. Last year, however, a special quota of 200 individuals was accepted.

The Nordic UNHCR representation is very critical of the whole situation, as stated in a recent letter. The office is urging Denmark to accept a higher number of resettled refugees, to stop revoking permits, to ease access to family reunification processes and to forget the plans for asylum processing outside Europe.

UNHCR warns that the Danish policy will create serious problems for integration, as refugees are kept in constant fear of losing their permit, and regrets the 'intense political and public debate in Denmark over the past decade – a politicisation that has led to an increasingly restrictive climate and, regrettably, at times has been accompanied by a harsh rhetoric and measures that have undermined the public support for the protection and integration of refugees'.

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