Beginning in 2021, refugees who arrive in Denmark and are not granted asylum will be kept on the remote and previously uninhabited Lindholm Island. The island was used in the past to study diseased animals and will require decontamination before it is safe for human occupation. This mistreatment of legitimate asylum seekers suggests xenophobic intents and is likely an attempt to deter and punish “undesirable” migrants which have criminal records or have been denied asylum for other reasons but cannot legally be deported due to the safety risks in their home countries. Denmark has been known internationally for having very strict foreign policy and citizenship and immigration policy in recent years, but has not met groups of migrants with this type of treatment in the past. Denmark’s far-right government has been met with backlash from citizens and the far-left opposition party with some going as far as to compare the conversations taking place today with the beliefs held in Nazi Germany during World War II.
Many human rights advocates have referred to the newly announced changes to Denmark’s migration policy as inhumane, and considering the country’s policy on prior felons, encourages treating those fleeing persecution among other safety issues as worse than ex-convicts. The current administration has admitted that the planned course of action is not in-line with what is prescribed by international law but said that his party is not shy about “challenging international conventions.” A member of the centre-right Danish People’s Party praised the decision and described it as an accurate depiction of the situation in Denmark, and stated that the country does not want to be viewed as a welcoming destination for asylum seekers. The announcement of the building of these migrant facilities on Lindholm Island comes after years of shifts in Denmark’s treatment of migrants which has included making family reunification more difficult, reducing benefits for irregular migrants, lengthening the application for permanent residency, and enforcing deportations more widely. In 2016, a law was even passed that allowed the Danish government to confiscate valuables from migrants in exchange for covering the cost of their stay.
International law on migration and refugees is designed to promote global security and peace and to foster the growth of a global community in which one who is forced to flee has guaranteed protection in another state. Denmark’s treatment of refugees stands in the way of this goal and puts hundreds of lives at risk. It is essential that nations cooperate in the acceptance and fair assessment of migrant cases. In a conflict-riddled world, it is detrimental that as we work towards our goals of achieving peace, the global community continues to provide humanitarian aid and asylum wherever possible. The burden lies on the international community, particularly those at the forefront of the United Nations to remind Denmark of its moral obligations within the global community to treat migrants fairly and with dignity. Global cooperation in the ongoing refugee crises is needed due to the complexity of the issue and its widespread nature.
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