Planned Danish asylum centre in Rwanda 'unconscionable, potentially unlawful'

Planned Danish asylum centre in Rwanda 'unconscionable, potentially unlawful': Amnesty
2 min read
06 May, 2021
Amnesty International's European director staunchly criticised the idea of a Danish refugee reception centre in Rwanda, which local media suggested could now be on the table.
Denmark recently withdrew dozens of Syrian refugees' residencies [In Pictures/Getty-file photo]
Denmark has reached an agreement with Rwanda on asylum seekers, according to local media, prompting outcry over potential damage to refugees' rights.

The move could help facilitate the construction of a refugee reception centre in Rwanda, The Local's Denmark edition reported on Wednesday.

The memorandum of understanding, which also covers migration, was signed during a trip made last week by Denmark's International Development Minister Flemming Møller Mortensen and Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye was released on Wednesday.

The deal claims the current asylum regime is "unfair and unethical" for "incentivising children, women and men to embark on dangerous journeys… while human traffickers earn fortunes".

It adds that the Danish authorities want asylum claims to be dealt with beyond the EU's borders, to end what it calls "the [current] negative incentive structure".

The Local reported that the governing Social Democrats put plans for an overseas refugee reception centre at the heart of their 2019 electoral efforts.

The government introduced an asylum-related parliamentary bill the very same day Mortensen and Tesfaye arrived back from Rwanda, the website reported.

The measure's sub-title says it is an "introduction of the option to transfer asylum seekers for processing and possible subsequent protection in third countries".

It does not appear to use the word "Rwanda".

Read more: Syria Insight: Fears for Syrian refugees in Denmark after government classifies Damascus as 'safe area'

The memorandum of understanding with Kigali does not discuss a refugee reception centre being constructed there.

However, it does reference the fact Rwanda is a "temporary evacuation" site for "refugees trapped in detention in Libya" under a separate international deal.

The deal further says it is centred on improving Rwanda’s "Refugee Status Determination" concerning, for example, appeals.

Handling the claims of asylum seekers who reach Denmark in Rwanda "would be not only unconscionable, but potentially unlawful", said Amnesty International's Europe director, Nils Muižnieks.

It would be a "new low" in European "responsibility-shifting", he said.

Muižnieks added: "The idea that rich countries can pay their way out of their international obligations, stripping asylum-seekers of their right to even have their claims considered in Denmark, is deeply worrying."

Denmark has recently come under fire for its treatment of refugees.

Declaring their country "safe", Copenhagen has withdrawn residency permits from dozens of Syrians.

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