Denmark under fire for stricter asylum laws

Copenhagen has introduced tougher asylum laws. In future the police will be able to confiscate asylum seekers' cash and valuables, there are new restrictions on family reunion and the validity periods for residency permits have been shortened. The move has drawn fierce criticism from abroad - which several Danish commentators reject.

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Le Jeudi (LU) /

Refugees just a pawn for politicians

It's no secret why border fences are being erected and asylum laws are being tightened across Europe, the centre-left weekly paper Le Jeudi comments:

“Not because there are too many migrants but because these migrants come from strange lands and that fuels all kinds of racism. So to a certain extent no one cares about the refugees. In fact they don't play a role at all - this is not about them. All this is happening for base domestic policy reasons. These measures will deprive the vultures on the far right of their sustenance, it's claimed. Because for the far right the migrants are almost a gift from heaven. How else could they fill their election programmes? So the idea is to deprive them of that sustenance. Fine, but the problem is that for now everyone's eating from the same plate.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Deterrence setting a precedent in Europe

The government in Copenhagen is aiming mainly for a deterrent impact with its tougher asylum laws, the left-wing daily taz comments:

“The message the government and the parliamentary majority's symbolic policy sends is: we won't risk casting any doubt on our status as the country with the most stringent asylum legislation. The 'jewellery debate' is diverting attention from the truly significant changes to asylum law, for example the restrictions on family reunion, which contravene the human rights charter. Although Denmark was summoned to the European Parliament it barely heard any criticism from the coalition of conservatives and social democrats there. And the reason for that is clear: much of what Denmark has done in recent years has since been copied by other governments.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Confiscation of values

Sacrificing basic values to obtain political backing is a dangerous trend, the daily Le Soir writes, commenting on the Danish controversy:

“One can understand the urge to fill the current void with truly effective solutions, especially as the public is losing its patience. Nevertheless there must be clear limits, and these have been crossed in Denmark. Yes, you can try out different solutions, but you can never - no matter what the cost - question our fundamental values and the moral pillars of state action in order to gain public support by playing on instincts. Those who let racist demons out of their box will not go unpunished. And no one is safe today: the symbolic gesticulating of both the left and the right only serves the interests of the far right. To no purpose, as we’ve seen. … What is being confiscated in this process is our values.”

Jyllands-Posten (DK) /

Denmark rises to challenge of open debate

The international community's harsh criticism of Denmark is unjust in the eyes of the liberal-conservative daily Jyllands-Posten:

“Denmark should be commended for having conducted the debate so openly, especially considering the consequences for its international standing. The wave of refugees and migrants has demonstrated how fragile European collaboration is, and until we have solid data on the refugee numbers [the figures recently cited by the EU commission and the UNHCR are at odds] not just the debate is being distorted, but the risk of misguided political decisions also rises. … Europe's biggest challenge now is to work together on the basis of verifiable facts - not myths.”

Politiken (DK) /

Don't further damage Denmark's reputation

To prevent Denmark from being portrayed as an evil, xenophobic country the law should not be passed, the centre-left daily Politiken demands:

“The majority of our population should stop and think. There's no shame in admitting that an idea must be abandoned because it has taken on a dimension that was never intended. We don't need a special law. Refugees who reside here and receive state support will be subject to the same regulations as everyone else. Denmark doesn't reject refugees, and it's not xenophobic or anti-Islam. But because this law would cause the rest of the world to believe that we are all of the above, we can get by without it. There's no law against having second thoughts, and there's still time to do just that.”

Berlingske (DK) /

We must not be ashamed

The criticism of Denmark is unfair, the conservative daily Berlingske likewise surmises:

“Once the smoke has cleared most people will hopefully recognise that Denmark has been the target of a smear campaign and has nothing to be ashamed of - apart from the government's awkward way of dealing with the crisis. ... Denmark is among the countries that take in the greatest number of refugees per capita. We are one of five countries in the world that put 0.7 percent of GDP or more into development aid. Denmark protects human rights and complies with international treaties. That's how it is. But in the exceptional situation in which Denmark and Europe currently find themselves it is legitimate to protect ourselves against the overwhelming flood of refugees and migrants.”