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Statement by Kofi Annan: The migration debate in Denmark: a European race to the bottom

Geneva, 26 January – I am worried by the new refugee law before the Danish Parliament today. It is in sharp contrast with Denmark’s humanitarian and social traditions, and highlights a worrying trend in European politics: An issue that should have helped Europe to rally together in solidarity to forge a common approach is regretfully having the opposite effect.

The threat to confiscate migrants’ valuables and to delay to three years the waiting period before they can be reunited with their families is not in the spirit of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the UN Refugee Convention, all of which Denmark is a party to.

The failure of the European Union to agree to a common migration policy is leading to a race to the bottom by member states. Attempting to push problems to ones neighbours is not a sustainable strategy. If the law before Parliament today in Denmark is passed, I fear to think what the next national response will be.

While European states have to address the legitimate concerns of their citizens regarding the historic influx of migrants since last year, they cannot do so at the expense of their values, ideals and international law. By doing so they offer violent movements a victory they could never have won on their own.

I encourage the member states of the European Union to focus on forging the common migration policy the continent urgently needs.