Denmark has overwhelmingly voted for a law that would allow asylum seekers to be processed outside of the EU, prompting criticism from human rights bodies and the European Union.
The affluent Scandinavian country – which has been increasingly hostile towards refugees – voted in favour of the law today, with 70 votes in favour and 24 against, according to Reuters.
The EU’s European Commission expressed concern over how the new policy would line up with EU law, which seeks to unify the asylum system across the Bloc.
“External processing of asylum claims raises fundamental questions about both the access to asylum procedures and effective access to protection,” said Adalbert Jahnz, a commission spokesperson. “It is not possible under existing EU rules or proposals under the new pact for migration and asylum.”
The new laws will allow asylum seekers to be processed in countries outside Denmark. Countries are yet to be confirmed, but Rasmus Stoklund, the government party’s immigration speaker, said negotiations were ongoing.
Stoklund confirmed that the law seeks to actively disincentive migrants from applying for asylum in Denmark, telling Danish broadcaster DR, “If you apply for asylum in Denmark, you know that you will be sent back to a country outside Europe, and therefore we hope that people will stop seeking asylum in Denmark.”
The move has prompted concern from human rights organisations, who say processing asylum seekers outside of Europe could be a threat to welfare.
Gillian Triggs, a UNHCR assistant high commissioner, said: “Such practices undermine the rights of those seeking safety and protection, demonise and punish them, and may put their lives at risk.”
Denmark has seen a gradual decline in the number of refugees it receives each year, currently taking in around 1,500 year, a large drop from 21,000 in 2015.