EU 'cannot handle' another year of refugees pouring into Europe – Danish PM
“We need to find solutions that work. Because we cannot handle yet another year with an influx like the one we saw last year. Especially not if the burden continues to be borne by very few countries,” Lars Lokke Rasmussen told reporters on Friday, The Local reports.
His statement referred to the fact that several EU member states have failed to welcome refugees, resulting in the majority of the burden being carried by just a few nations, including Denmark.
Austria implemented a daily cap for asylum seekers on Friday – a move which the European Commission slammed as being “plainly incompatible” with European Union laws. Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia also tightened their borders, after Vienna urged other countries on the Balkans route to follow its lead.
Rasmussen's remark comes just one day after the prime minister and fellow European leaders agreed to move forward with a German-backed plan for Turkey to stem the flow of migrants leaving its shores for the EU.
That plan involves the EU giving Ankara €3 billion ($3.3 billion) in exchange for Turkey strengthening its border controls, tackling people-smugglers, and taking additional measures to keep more refugees from crossing over into Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the EU-Turkey plan is “our priority,” to which Rasmussen agreed.
“Turkey is sitting with a sort of key. The way the Turks take action will have an impact on how many come,” Rasmussen said, as quoted by Ritzau news agency.
Over one million refugees reached Europe's shores in 2015, in what has become the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Denmark registered 21,000 asylum applications last year, making it one of the top EU destinations for refugees per capita, after Finland, Austria, Germany, and Sweden.
The Danish government began toughening its policies at the beginning of 2016, with the parliament passing measures aimed at deterring refugees from seeking asylum. The measures included the confiscation of refugees' valuables and a delay in family reunifications. The move has received widespread condemnation from human rights organizations.
One week prior, Danish lawmakers passed a resolution urging the government to look into the consequences of building temporary housing complexes for refugees outside Danish cities. The move was backed by the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, which wants to prevent refugees from integrating into Danish society.
The influx of asylum seekers has led to tension with residents in some areas, with Danish women reporting sexual harassment at the hands of refugees in at least three towns. Several nightclubs have imposed strict admission rules, requiring patrons to prove their ability to speak Danish, German, or English.
However, despite efforts by European leaders to stem the flow of refugees arriving in Europe, the number of new arrivals has seen an increase in 2016. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more asylum seekers arrived in Europe by boat during the first six weeks of this year than during the first four months of 2015.