COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark’s prime minister said his minority government would push ahead with a bill to reject asylum seekers at the borders in times of crisis even though such a move might breach the European Union’s Dublin rules.
Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he wanted to guard against a situation like last year when 21,300 asylum seekers entered the country and the rules that say people must stay and claim asylum in the first EU country they reach were discarded.
“The proposal is aimed at a situation like the one last year, when it was very obvious that Dublin rules had been de facto side lined,” Lars Lokke Rasmussen told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday.
He said the proposal was inspired by a similar law adopted in June by neighbouring Norway, which is not a member of the EU but adheres to the Dublin rules, and acknowledged that the change could be “problematic in relation to the Dublin rules”.
“Like Norway sent a signal to us, we would like to send a signal to others that we must find a solution in Europe where we take care of our external borders,” Rasmussen said.
EU states are at loggerheads over how to manage migration after 1.3 million refugees and migrants reached the bloc last year. Frictions intensified after Italy and Greece, frustrated by a lack of help from other countries, let migrants travel north to richer states in defiance of the rules.
While that eased pressure on the “frontline” states, the northern reaction to last year’s huge surge in arrivals from Syria, Africa and beyond led to new border controls across Europe, including in Denmark.
The proposed law has yet to be adopted by the parliament, where Rasmussen’s Liberals hold only 34 out of 179 seats and need the support of others, including the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, to govern.
The European Commission has said it will only be able to comment on the issue once precise draft legislation is put on the table.
Around 250,000 people sought asylum in the Nordic region last year, most of them in Sweden, straining tolerance and pressuring government budgets.
Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Catherine Evans