Deal with Denmark to host asylum seekers looks real

Sunday November 20 2022
asylum in Denmark

Hundreds of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Africa walk along a motorway towards the Austrian border, near Budapest, Hungary, September 4, 2015. Following an MoU, Rwanda could host refugees and people seeking asylum in Denmark. PHOTO | FILE | DPA | AFP

By Ange Iliza

The deal to host illegal migrants from Denmark in Rwanda received a boost when the new Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who has been advocated for the deal since April, returned to office.

The implementation began in August when Denmark opened an immigration office in Kigali. Details about the timeline and the cost of the deal have not been announced so far.

Scholars and human rights advocates in Denmark warn that it will not stop the smugglers as the government claims. They argue that migrants and refugees might leave Rwanda and set in motion a whole new round of dangerous attempts to return to Europe.

In the case of Denmark, however, the deal has been questioned why a country that has recorded a historically lower number of migrants in the past year wants to transfer the burden to a poorer and smaller country.

The number of immigrants received in Denmark have been declining over the past years; from 69,000 in 2003 to 36,023 in 2021, according to the World Bank data. This is the case while other European countries struggle to seal their borders as numbers of refugees and illegal immigrants flock in.

“Denmark is receiving historically few refugees at the moment. But there seems to be no logical relation between the numbers and the panic migrants and refugees create," Hans Lucht, a researcher at the Danish Institute of International Studies told Rwanda Today.


The decline in migrants received in Denmark has been attributed to efforts the country has invested in restrictive policies since 2012 when Social Democrats, the current  prime minister’s party, won the 2011 general elections.

Since then, Denmark’s image as a progressive and welcoming welfare state took a turn.

“Sending asylum seekers to distant countries has for long been a fantasy of the far right in Europe, but in recent years, the social democrats in Denmark have also embraced the idea, to win back their alienated working class voters. Therefore, outsourcing is now backed across the political spectrum,” Mr. Lucht added.

Last year, Denmark passed a law that would allow the wealthy nation to move refugees arriving on Danish soil to asylum centers in a partner country to have their cases reviewed, and to possibly obtain protection in that country.

Denmark’s deal has been rejected by Tunisia and Ethiopia before Rwanda took it. The deal was officially signed in April by Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta, to "jointly explore" the possibility of sending "spontaneous asylum seekers" who arrive in

Denmark to Rwanda "for consideration of the asylum applications and protection, and the option of settling in Rwanda." Rwanda opened its doors to refugees despite allegations of human rights violation.

In addition to Denmark and the UK, in 2014 Rwanda signed a deal to take in African migrants who had been denied residence in Israel.