Denmark's PM backs 'zero asylum seekers' in lurch to the right

Richard Orange
·2 min read
Mette Frederiksen is pushing her party to the right on immigration policy - EPA
Mette Frederiksen is pushing her party to the right on immigration policy - EPA

Denmark's Social Democrat prime minister has declared that she wants the country to receive "zero asylum seekers", relaunching her party's drive to be as restrictive on immigration as the populist right.

"That is our goal," Mette Frederiksen told Denmark's parliament on Friday afternoon. "We cannot promise zero asylum seekers. But we can set up that vision."

Just 1,547 people have applied for asylum in Denmark 2020, the lowest number since 1998, thanks in part to the Covid pandemic and in part to the country's tough immigration system.

But, according to Ms Frederiksen, even this is too many.

"We must make sure that not too many people come to our country, otherwise our social cohesion cannot exist. It is already under threat," she said.

She told parliament that Denmark had in the past made too few demands on the foreigners, allowing them to live on benefits while failing to adopt Danish cultural values.

Denmark has one of Europe's toughest immigration and asylum regimes, owing in part to the influence of the populist Danish People's Party, which for nearly twenty years made tighter restrictions the price of its parliamentary support.

Border checks in Denmark, where there a tough restrictions on asylum seekers entering the country - GETTY IMAGES
Border checks in Denmark, where there a tough restrictions on asylum seekers entering the country - GETTY IMAGES

But the former kingmaker party has been thrown into crisis since Ms Frederiksen's decision to take her partly sharply to the right on immigration, with its share of the vote falling from 21 per cent in the 2015 general election to just five percent in recent polls.

Ms Frederiksen's call for zero asylum seekers came a day after Mattias Tesfaye, the country's immigration minister, floated the same goal as he announced what he described as "the lowest asylum figures in human memory".

"If we could get the spontaneous asylum seekers down to zero, we would then easily be able to discuss an annual number of quota refugees," he said.

Mr Tesfaye, whose own father came to Denmark as an asylum seeker from Ethiopia, then reiterated his party's plan, floated during the general election campaign in 2019, to establish a refugee reception centre in Northern Africa or the Middle East.

"The best way to get to zero would be to establish a refugee reception centre outside Europe, because why would people want to cross five to ten secure European borders if they can instead be given a plane ticket and have their case handled in a third country?"