Danish government's plan to create a camp in this so far little-known country where asylum seekers can be sent. And if it turns out that they really have the right to protection, then refugees will probably stay there.
In fact, there is nothing particularly strange about this.
For many years, the government and individual high-ranking Social Democrats have announced their intention to create a so-called "reception center" outside Europe.
When this idea was first born, prominent Social Democrat Henrik Sass Larsen proposed that the asylum procedure instead of Denmark should be carried out in Libya and Algeria. When the Social Democrats began to seriously consider this proposal in 2018, they mentioned seven times in party statements that the refugee reception center should be located "outside Europe."
Since then, both Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Minister of Immigration and Integration Matthias Tesfaye have repeatedly reiterated the phrase "outside Europe" when discussing a potential location for a refugee reception center. Mette Frederiksen also mentioned "North Africa" as a possible region for this idea when Danish Radio interviewed her on this topic in 2018.
"If we want to end all this dangerous travel across the Mediterranean, we need to move the border of Europe from its northern coast to the southern one," Mette Frederiksen also said at a press conference in 2018.
As it has now become clear, the government, seeking to implement its ambitious project, is considering not only countries south of the Mediterranean, but also Eastern Europe.
More precisely, as Jyllands-Posten was able to find out, Denmark is in dialogue about a reception center for asylum seekers with Ukraine. According to several independent sources, Matthias Tesfaye told about this to several parliamentary parties.
Dialogue with Ukraine is now at its very initial stage. The country, the second largest in Europe, borders as many as four European countries, and therefore the Danish government is not the preferred location for a refugee reception center.
According to Jyllands-Posten, the most popular in this context is Rwanda, with which the government has been negotiating refugees for a long time. This was discussed, including when the Danish minister traveled to the country's capital, Kigali, in April.
However, such information about Ukraine has caused surprise and criticism from the United List party and the Danish People's Party.
"After all, the government said that the center should not be located in Europe," says Rosa Lund, parliamentary representative of the United List party for foreign affairs.
"This demonstrates that it is not at all a matter of the kindness of our government, which seeks to stop dangerous crossings across the Mediterranean. In fact, the authorities simply do not want the refugees to be dealt with in Denmark. It exposes their guile," she says.
"After all, they will pay for this"
Dialogue with Ukraine is another episode in the already long series about the overseas refugee reception center.
For several years, the government deliberately spared information about which countries could host the center, which Matthias Tesfaye called his top political priority.
Specific information appeared only in April when the newspaper Jyllands-Posten said that Rwanda had agreed to open a reception center for refugees.
Later, Jyllands-Posten learned that the government actually tried to implement the North American option. Migration Ambassador Anders Tang Friborg, who, according to the government, should have continued to "knock on an open door", traveled to Tunisia and Egypt in the fall of 2020 to start a dialogue with them, a number of documents show.
The government also agreed on a refugee reception center with Ethiopia, where a large Danish delegation traveled last year to "sell" the idea.
Since then, Ethiopia has ceased to be a potential site for organizing a new center due to the bloody ethnic conflict - and now for the first time it has become known that the government, it turns out, is looking towards Eastern Europe.
Flemming Splidsboel, the Senior Fellow at the Danish Institute for International Studies and expert on Ukraine, is surprised by this development.
Ukraine is far from the usual refugee routes, he says.
What is a refugee reception center?
Until the last elections, the Social Democrats' most important campaign promise was the controversial plan to move the asylum processing procedure overseas.
In particular, the government wants Danish asylum seekers to be sent to reception centers outside the EU. They must live there while their case is being examined.
If they are granted asylum - that is, they are recognized as in need of protection - they will have to stay in the country where the refugee reception center is located.
The Folketing (Danish Parliament - approx. Transl.) Has passed an amendment to the law, which makes it legal to send refugees to camps abroad, however, a suitable country has not yet been found.
From the point of view of the Danes and according to the expert, Ukraine is a more reliable partner than Rwanda, where human rights are poorly respected, and in 2018, 12 people were shot and killed who complained about the reduction in food rations in the refugee camp in Kiziba.
"Ukraine has something to criticize for, but the political culture and openness in this country is of a completely different order than in Rwanda," says Flemming Splissboel.
The author of the idea: "It will work"
If you ask migration expert Morten Lisborg, Ukraine is a very suitable choice to try and implement the idea.
"I am not at all surprised that the authorities are looking east. I myself suggested that. The routes of migrants, of course, partly come from Africa, but they also run in the east - for example, the Balkan route," says Morten Lisborg.
He is a co-owner of the Migration Management Advice and helped the Social Democrats when the party made hosting a refugee center a mainstay of its foreign policy in 2018.
The Social Democrats no longer give him orders, but in view of his previous cooperation with them, it turns out that he is one of the authors of the idea and plan for organizing a refugee camp abroad.
According to Morten Lisborg, the key point is that Ukraine does not participate in the Schengen Agreement, which allows citizens to freely cross the borders between partner countries.
Refugees will not have the motivation to apply for asylum in Denmark if they end up in a country that does not enjoy the advantage of free movement under the Schengen Agreement, this is how the rationale sounds.
Jyllands-Posten: But Ukraine is a European country. Is it such an unattractive place that refugees and migrants will not want to apply to Denmark because of this?
Morten Lisborg: Information will spread quickly, and if a person moves along the Balkan route, he will immediately know that, if he applies for asylum in Denmark on his own initiative, he risks ending up in Ukraine and waiting for him there. This will reduce the number of people applying to Denmark.
Simon Turner, a migration expert at the University of Copenhagen, also understands the logic of the idea with Ukraine. This country is located very close to the Balkan route, from which refugees often travel through Greece, Serbia, and Hungary to their destination in Northern Europe.
"Now a lot of attention is paid to the Mediterranean Sea because the Balkan route has dried up a bit in recent years." But given the emergence of new refugees from Afghanistan, it is easy to imagine that people will start walking from that side again," says Simon Turner.
The fact that Ukraine itself is not a transit country does not necessarily make it an inconvenient place for a center, he says:
"Rwanda cannot be said to be right on the route from West Africa either."
Morten Messerschmidt, deputy chairman of the Danish People's Party, is skeptical about the idea of locating a refugee reception center in Ukraine. He prefers Rwanda.
"Obviously, it is better to prefer a country that is farther from Denmark and less attractive than Ukraine. Ukraine borders on the EU. If people are smuggled from Morocco to Italy, what will prevent illegal immigrants from crossing the physical border between Ukraine and Poland?"
In recent years, Denmark's relations with Ukraine have been heavily affected by the conflict with Russia.
At the same time, Ukraine expressed its desire to become a member of the EU in the long term.
In April, Jeppe Kofod held a video meeting with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, at which he stressed that "Denmark fully supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine" in the conflict with Russia.
In August, the government suddenly sent Ukraine half a million doses of the coronavirus vaccine. This prompted President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Twitter to praise Mette Frederiksen and call the two countries "friends."
"Denmark and Ukraine are close partners - including in the fight against the pandemic," said Danish Ambassador to Ukraine Ole Egberg Mikkelsen in the same vein.
Matthias Tesfaye did not want to be interviewed on this topic and sent us a written comment:
“The government has identified several countries where we see opportunities for cooperation to create a refugee reception center. We do not want to talk about who we are conducting a dialogue with and what exactly we are discussing," the minister wrote.
Jyllands-Posten contacted the Ukrainian embassy in Copenhagen, asking if the country had any contacts with Denmark on the refugee reception center. In an email, the ambassador's advisor Yuri Romanchuk did not answer the question of whether there were such contacts. Instead, he said that Ukraine is not negotiating a refugee camp with Denmark:
"I can assure you that the Ukrainian government has not and is not going to negotiate with the Danish government about any option for the construction of such a facility for asylum seekers," read his reply.
Jyllands-Posten also approached the Ministry of Immigration and Integration with the question of government negotiations with Rwanda.
The ministry replied that a Danish official delegation visited the country last week.
Read the original text at Jyllands-Posten