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Denmark-Rwanda asylum seeker deal: A momentary relief desperate families

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File picture: AP – Rwanda this week offered to take in 500 of the 4700 asylum seekers stuck in Libya, because Europe is no longer that keen on African migrants unless they are rich.

By Chad Williams

This week Denmark moved one step closer to sending asylum seekers to Rwanda.

A deal with Rwanda would make Denmark the first EU member to effectively bypass the bloc’s migration and asylum systems, say immigration analysts.

Essentially, this means that the two countries are looking for ways to establish a programme that would allow asylum-seekers arriving in Denmark to be transferred to Rwanda for consideration of their asylum application.

It has been revealed that under this deal, around 1 000 asylum seekers may be sent to Rwanda each year.

Last year, the African Union expressed its disdain over the relocation of refugees from Europe to Africa.

“The African Union condemns in the strongest terms possible, Denmark’s Aliens Act, which was passed recently and which provides for Denmark to relocate asylum-seekers to countries outside the European Union while their cases are being processed.

“This law effectively externalises and exports the asylum process beyond the borders of Denmark. Denmark has decided to send applications for international protection outside its borders; which amounts to responsibility and burden shifting.”

The AU said it views this law with the gravest of concerns and wishes to remind Denmark of its responsibility towards international protection for persons in need of that protection as provided for in the 1951 UN Convention on refugees, to which Denmark is a state party.

“Africa has a lot to show to the world as it continues to generously shoulder the burden of 85% the world’s refugees, often in protracted situations, whereas only 15% are hosted by developed countries.”

The AU said it noted with great concern attempts and proposals to establish similar arrangements in Africa through bilateral arrangements, which is worrying and unacceptable.

The AU perceives such attempts as an extension of the borders of such countries and an extension of their control of the African shores. Such attempts to stem migration from Africa to Europe are xenophobic and completely unacceptable.

Denmark’s Aliens Act will successfully allow Denmark to abdicate its international responsibility to provide asylum and protection to those that enter its territory. It will serve to distort the international asylum regime as well as pave the way for more wealthy and developed countries, that only host 15% of the global refugees, to shift their responsibilities to the developing countries who already have a burden of hosting 85% of the global refugees while struggling with other challenges. Such a practice would not support the principle of equitable burden and responsible sharing, as envisioned in the Global Compact on Refugees, and is also unsustainable.

The AU called on all state parties to the 1951 UN Convention to remain true and faithful to their commitment and obligations to the international asylum system and encourage them to protect the asylum space and stop intolerance and shunning of responsibility, especially over migrants and asylum-seekers from outside Europe.

The two countries declared a “joint ambition to collaborate on asylum and that they will set up a mechanism that could transfer seekers to Rwanda from Denmark”, according to a statement published by the government in Copenhagen on Friday, Bloomberg reported.

In June, Denmark passed a law enabling it to process asylum-seekers outside Europe, drawing anger from human rights advocates, the UN and the European Commission.

Denmark passed the law with 70 lawmakers voting in favour and 24 against.

The legislation will complicate the EU’s efforts to overhaul Europe’s fragmented migration and asylum rules, an extremely divisive subject within the bloc, Reuters reported this week.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive, questioned the law’s compatibility with Denmark’s international obligations.

“External processing of asylum claims raises fundamental questions about both the access to asylum procedures and effective access to protection,” commission spokesperson Adalbert Jahnz said.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has said that plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda are “unconscionable and potentially unlawful”

Responding to the news that Danish authorities have signed an agreement with the Rwandan government to enhance co-operation on migration and asylum, potentially then send asylum-seekers to Rwanda, Amnesty International’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks, said: In August, the Danish government announced the opening of a project office in Rwanda’s capital Kigali as part of the Nordic country’s plan to eventually set up an asylum centre in the East African nation.

“Denmark and Rwanda share a wish to help more refugees better than today and to fight irregular and life-threatening migration, including across the Mediterranean,” Immigration Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said in a statement issued by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday.

“Our shared goal is to reform the current, flawed asylum system and ensure a dignified and sustainable future for refugees and migrants. I am therefore pleased that we will soon be able to open an office in Rwanda,” he added.

Williams is a multi-media journalist.

This article is original to the The African. To republish, see terms and conditions.