Solution catalogue: Alternatives to flight and deterrence

Lemberg and Bendixen have collected a number of alternatives to the current political stance, which is focusing on deterring refugees and exporting the responsibility for them away from Denmark and Europe.


English summary below. 

Photo: Daniel Rosenthal, from a UNHCR camp in South Sudan.

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The word "refugee crisis" is used often, but often also unreflected. It covers certain sudden fluctuations in a more or less constant problem, displacement, which requires long-term and sustainable solutions. This is at odds with changing governments focus on collecting votes on the short term, and this is one reason why many poorly thought through and counterproductive ideas are launched.

There are clear problems today, when it comes to asylum processing, integration and returns. However, politically, there also seems to be an interest in highlighting negative aspects, whils ignoring the well functioning elements, progress and valuable experiences, which are made all the time.

Lately, a social democratic proposal to shut down for asylum processing in Denmark, and moving it to an unspecified country in North Africa, has been portrayed as a new and progressive idea. However, this is far from new, it is unrealistic, and it moves away from a basic humanism, which for crucial reasons has been viewed as a foundation for refugee politics for many years. The European epochs with persecution of displaced minorities and slavery should have taught us that practices with massive humanitarian consequences must be rejected.

Much critique of the social democratic and similar proposals have been met with the claim that there are no alternatives to such a radical change in policies. But there are in fact many such alternatives, and in this document, we have taken it upon ourselves to describe some of them. Some have already been proposed, used while others still exist as possibilities. In different ways, they offer the potential to improve Danish, European and global refugee- and migration politics.

The result is a solution catalogue with alternatives. The collection of proposals is not exhaustive, and they may not all be realisable. It is, though, not a question of "either-or", but rather of "both-and". They have been launched by a number of actors from different political and institutional backgrounds, and this reflects how flight, displacement and migration are complex phenomena, which must be countered on many levels and with an open mind.

The political imagination is in dire need of being liberated from the current focus on deterring migrants and refugees, while exporting responsibility for them away from Denmark and Europe. 

The solution-catalogue starts out listing several reasons why the replacement of asylum seeking in Denmark with North African processing camps is a bad idea:

  • No country is interested in receiving Europe's asylum seekers on top of their own.

  • The practical operation of a processing and containment camp outside Europe with adequate standards of case handling will be impossible.

  • Smugglers and drowning accidents will not be avoided if people first have to arrive in Denmark and then get relocated first to the new camps, and then to UNHCR camps.

  • The closure of the possibility of applying for asylum in Denmark will require a historic upscaling of totalitarian infrastructure in and outside Denmark.

Having listed these issues, the catalogue then goes on to sketch the many alternatives to both the externalizing asylum and control policies outside Europe, and the challenges to the current asylum system. These are grouped along four main axes: 

1. Preempting displacement

2. Access to Europe

3.  Distribution, asylum processing and rights within Europe

4. Societal inclusion

 Among the initiatives designed to preempt displacement, the catalogue lists:

  • Regulating surveillance- and arms trade.

  • Scale down and halt Danish and EU agricultural subsidies.

  • Ensure peoples´ access to land and water resources.

  • Increased, timely and needs-based support to disaster-strikes areas.

  • Halt overfisheries.

  • Social protection thresholds.

  • Supporting local food programmes.

  • Stabilizing food prices and international trade.

  • Halt tax evasion, capital flight, corruption and nepotism.

Among the initiatives to improve access to Europe, the catalogue lists:

  • Asylum processing on embassies/consulates and humanitarian visas.

  • Temporary reception and standby-capacity for protection in EU countries during mass displacements.

  • The Dublin Regulation´s sovereignty Clause.

  • Reinstate and expand the scope of UN quota refugees to Denmark.

  • Ensure more legal migration routes and reasons for legal residence.

Among the initiatives concerning distribution, asylum processing and rights within the EU, the catalogue lists:

  • Reactivation and expansion of the EU´s hotspot system.

  • Compensation to states and the allowance of special preferences.

  • Alliance within Europe about common asylum standards, -assessments, -rights and -distributions.

  • Gradual harmonisation of asylum processing.

  • Gradual harmonisation of civil rights for refugees, who achieve asylum in the EU.

  • Implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Danish asylum legislation.

  • A halt to genderblind migration policy.

  • Phasing out deportation centres, deterrence measures and violent returns.

 Among the initiatives concerning societal inclusion, the catalogue lists:

  • Integration policy must no longer be used as a tool of deterrence.

  • A holistic approach in the coordination at municipality level.

  • Access to Danish language courses and work already in the asylum processing phase, as well as better options for private housing outside centres.

  • Health screening and social information schemes reinstated.

  • Flexible visitation and residence placement in municipalities.

  • Simple and transparent rules, which are not constantly changed and hardened.

  • Increased municipal involvement and cooperation with voluntary civil society actors.

  • Harmonizing municipal and national refugee policies.

  • Longer residence permits and easier access to permanent stay.

  • Moving focus from short-term and unskilled labor, to vocational training and education.