UNHCR slams Denmark for proposing to block refugees

UNHCR strongly criticises Denmark over proposals to block refugees, calling them 'an affront to their dignity'

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi gives his first news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, January 7, 2016.

Updated Jan 8, 2016

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has harshly criticised proposals in Denmark to curbing the refugee influx and called them “an affront to their dignity" in an 18-page report. 

The proposals would make reunification of refugee families and acquisition of refugee status more difficult.

They involve requiring refugees to wait three years before applying to bring their families abroad into the country and shortening the duration of temporary residence permits.

Under the proposals refugees will be accepted on the basis of their "integration potential" rather than their status solely as refugees.

Proposed search powers allow police to confiscate asylum seekers' belongings worth more than $436 to help pay for their stay.

The UNHCR referred such policies as a "deeply concerning response to humanitarian needs."

The report says, due to the unprecedented influx of refugees, the selection of refugees should not be based on "integration potential."

In order to share the refugee burden, the European Union has agreed on a resettlement program which requires members states to receive 160,000 refugees across the bloc until 2017.

Filippo Grandi, an Italian diplomat who took over as UN High Commissioner for Refugees this week, separately told a news briefing that Europe must set an example by welcoming refugees and not erecting barriers, while sharing the burden fairly across the continent.

Denmark has now imposed temporary checks on its border after Sweden put in place controls to stop refugees moving further north.

Danish police say 36 of the 1,366 people they have checked for photo IDs in the past two days at the German border have been refused entry into Denmark.

"If Europe had a coherent, coordinated response ... these border reactions that sometimes are justified, like in the case of Sweden by a huge arrival of people, wouldn't be happening," Grandi said.

"We will of course continue to say 'You manage your border as you see necessary,' but the right of people to seek asylum should not be jeopardised. That's very, very important."

TRTWorld and agencies