Statement by Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR Representative to the Nordic and Baltic Countries
The Danish Parliament is currently considering a government bill that would enable asylum seekers in Denmark to be transferred to a third country for their asylum application to be processed and for protection to be provided in that country for those determined to need it.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, urges the parliament not to adopt this bill.
UNHCR maintains the view that transferring the asylum process and the protection of refugees to another country outside Europe is neither a responsible nor a sustainable solution – and is contrary to the principles underpinning international refugee cooperation.
In initiating such a drastic and restrictive change to Danish refugee law, Denmark risks setting in motion a domino effect whereby other countries in Europe and the neighbouring regions will also explore options for limiting the protection of refugees within their territories. This could lead to a worrying “race to the bottom” in which the lives and well-being of refugees would be put at risk and their protection significantly reduced.
Accordingly, UNHCR is greatly concerned about the current Danish bill, which risks undermining the foundations of the international system of protection for the world’s refugees. Ultimately, this could make it much more challenging for refugees to obtain the protection they need and to which they are entitled, and result in an increased and more uncontrolled movement of refugees away from their local areas.
Due to these severe consequences, UNHCR, in its consultation response in March 2021, strongly urged the government not to proceed with the bill. UNHCR also pointed out that other similar transfer agreements have in practice proved impossible to implement without breaching international obligations enshrined in both refugee and human rights conventions.
UNHCR recommends that Denmark instead strengthen its active participation in global refugee cooperation and help find common European solutions to Europe’s shared challenges in both the reception and protection of refugees.
At the European level, intensive political work is in progress to develop a common European asylum policy that strives to be fair and humane while furthering European solidarity with the countries that receive a relatively large proportion of asylum seekers and refugees entering Europe.
UNHCR supports these EU efforts. In our view, it is essential that all EU Member States, including Denmark, collaborate to find a better and more effective European model to address the reception and protection of refugees – instead of going it alone and working counter to each other with individual measures that merely shift the responsibility and challenges elsewhere.
In light of the far-reaching consequences that the adoption of the Danish bill poses – the lack of certainty that such a system is implementable in accordance with Denmark’s international obligations, and the ongoing EU efforts to reach a consensus on a common, better and fairer European asylum system, UNHCR urges Members of Parliament not to support the proposed bill.
UNHCR warns against “exporting” asylum, calls for responsibility sharing for refugees, not burden shifting, 19 May 2021 (English)
UNHCR consultation response, 4 March 2021 (English)
UNHCR recommendations to Denmark to strengthen refugee protection (Danish) , 11 January 2021
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