Following UK's lead, Denmark considers sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing

Following UK's lead, Denmark considers sending asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing
Denmark is looking to strike a cash-for-refugees deal with Rwanda, which recently agreed to host people seeking asylum in the UK while their claims are being processed.
2 min read
24 April, 2022
Denmark's Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye is considering the possibility of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda. [FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS/AFP via Getty]

Denmark's immigration minister has said Copenhagen is considering sending its asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, days after Britain struck such a deal with the East African nation.

“Our dialogue with the Rwandan government includes a mechanism for the transfer of asylum seekers,” Denmark's Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye - himself the son of an Ethiopian refugee - announced on Wednesday.

Immigration speakers in the Danish parliament have been summoned to a meeting on 28 April, Tesfaye added.  

The government will need parliamentary approval for a potential deal with Rwanda. Such a deal would allow Denmark to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda while their asylum claims are being processed. If rejected, they would be allowed to stay in Rwanda, the most overpopulated country in Africa.

If the talks are successful, Denmark would become the first country in the European Union to externalise the processing of asylum claims in this way. Relocating refugees outside Europe is normally not possible under EU rules, but Denmark is exempt from EU asylum standards - from which it opted out at the time of joining the union.

In recent years, Denmark has adopted an increasingly tough stance on migration and asylum. It became the first Western country to deem Syria "safe" for returns despite the ongoing civil war, and to revoke some Syrians' residencies.

Denmark also passed a law last year allowing it to relocate asylum-seekers arriving on Danish soil to another country, but had yet to find a partner. Things changed when Rwanda struck a £120 million deal with the United Kingdom - agreeing to take some of its asylum seekers in exchange for economic support.

The aim of the deal, said Tesfaye, is to “ensure a more dignified approach than the criminal network of human traffickers that characterises migration across the Mediterranean today. ” 

Although the Danish government presents the measure as a way to crackdown against trafficking, humanitarian and human rights organisations have widely decried the deal. Sending asylum seekers abroad for processing is “both irresponsible and lacking in solidarity,” the Danish Refugee Council said in a statement.

Rwanda is stable politically, partly because it has been ruled for nearly thirty years by the same man, Paul Kagame - a leader with an increasingly dubious human rights record.