Minister praises ‘low’ number of Denmark asylum applications in 2021

A total of 2,095 applications for asylum were registered by Denmark in 2021, less than 10 percent of the number who came to the country for protection in 2015.

Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said he was pleased to see asylum applications in Denmark remain low in 2021.
Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said he was pleased to see asylum applications in Denmark remain low in 2021. File photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

The number represents an increase compared to 2020, when the Covid-19 crisis most severely impacted international travel and migration. 1,515 people applied for asylum in Denmark in 2020.

Both the 2020 and 2021 figures are less than one tenth of the number recorded in 2015, when 21,316 people applied for asylum in Denmark at the peak of the European migration crisis.

The new data was released by the Ministry of Immigration and Integration.

Among the 2,095 asylum seekers in 2021 are 430 Afghans who were evacuated as the Taliban gained control of Kabul in August last year.

The definitions used to record total asylum seeker numbers go back to 1998. The 2021 figures are still preliminary.

Around 12,000 people applied for asylum in Denmark in the years 1999-2002 before the total dropped, ranging between 2,000 and 6,000 annually until 2012. It then increased, partly due to the conflict in Syria and was 14,792 in 2014 and 21,316 the following year, the highest on record.

Since 2017, the annual total of asylum applications has not exceeded 4,000.

“I’m pleased we still have low asylum numbers here. A serious of clever decisions have been made which have continually ensured better control of immigration,” immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye said in a ministry statement.

Earlier in January, Tesfaye was on the sharp end of criticism from MEPs – some from European equivalents of his own Social Democratic party – over the Danish government’s policy of sending some Syrian refugees back to the Damascus region.

In mid-2020, Denmark became the first European Union country to re-examine the cases of about 500 Syrians from Damascus, which is under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, claiming “the current situation in Damascus is no longer such as to justify a residence permit or the extension of a residence permit”. 

Despite a wave of Danish and international criticism, including from experts used by the government, Tesfaye’s ministry has refused to budge over the policy.

Some members of the LIBE committee argues that Denmark was displaying a lack of solidarity with other EU countries because refugees in Denmark were more likely to apply for asylum elsewhere in the EU than risk return to Syria.

He received support from other MEPs during the hearing, notably Peter Kofod of the far-right Danish People’s Party and national conservative Italian MEP Nicola Procaccini.

READ ALSO: EU politicians criticise Denmark over return policy for Syrian refugees

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Could Denmark ease key work permit rule for foreigners?

Several political parties in Denmark have suggested they favour reducing a minimum salary requirement used to assess work permit applications.

Reports in Denmark suggest a parliamentary majority could favour a reduction of a key salary requirement used to grant work permits for non-EU nationals.
Reports in Denmark suggest a parliamentary majority could favour a reduction of a key salary requirement used to grant work permits for non-EU nationals. Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Conservative parties and the Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) party favour a reduction to Denmark’s pay limit scheme or beløbsgrænse, which sets a minimum salary which businesses must pay skilled non-EU nationals in order for the employee to qualify for a Danish work permit.

The government is currently negotiating with parliament over potential solutions to labour shortages.

Although previous attempts to reduce the pay limit scheme failed to make it through parliament, there now appears to be a potential majority in support of it, news wire Ritzau reports.

In 2019, the Social Liberals said they wanted to cut the minimum salary required for non-EU skilled professionals to qualify for working and residency permits (beløbsgrænse) from 417,800 kroner to 325,000 kroner per year.

The governing Social Democrats have opposed the change, arguing that it would make it less attractive for companies to hire from the Danish or EU labout markets.

But Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen suggested in her New Year speech that the government could now be prepared to reconsider the matter in light of the national labour shortage.

READ ALSO: Could small Danish companies become more likely to hire foreign staff?

News wire Ritzau reported on Wednesday that, along with the Social Liberals, some conservative parties also favour a reform to the pay limit system, suggesting a majority is achievable.

Business organisations have also long called for the minimum salary to be reduced to enable more skilled labour to be attracted from abroad.

Such a move also makes sense from a Danish perspective, an expert told Ritzau.

“If you reduce the (pay) limit, it will be easier to bring foreign labour from outside the EU to Denmark. What must be ensured is that this is done on the same (working) conditions we have in Denmark,” Roskilde University professor of Social Scences Bent Greve told the news wire.

Greve noted that previous experience with hiring from abroad showed several examples of successful integration.