Denmark’s minister for immigration and integration Inger Støjberg was in Vienna on Thursday as the two countries presented their plan for reforms to the EU’s asylum system.
Austria and Denmark plan to launch a pilot project establishing a deportation centre based outside the EU for rejected asylum seekers.
The two countries have been engaged in negotiations over the proposed centre since early this year.
Aims of the project include providing shelter to refugees closer to their home countries and to disrupt people smuggling operations.
Støjberg spoke about the envisaged system with Austrian interior minister Herbert Kickl on Thursday.
“We maintain that asylum should be sought in the first country you arrive in, instead of travelling through Europe,” the Danish minister said to Ritzau.
“In return, we are committed to increasing the capacity [of countries neighbouring conflict areas to manage asylum arrivals, ed.]. That can mean anything from healthcare, education, border guards and a system to manage asylum seekers,” she said.
A deportation centre located outside the EU would reduce incentive for people to travel across Europe to seek asylum, according to Støjberg.
“If you can see how quickly you can be sent back, there’s no reason to spend all your money and risk your life to get here,” she said.
The minister maintained that the proposal was within the European Union’s human rights conventions for refugees.
She called for support from other European countries for the project.
“It is important that the joint EU policy is that asylum seekers must stay in the first safe country they reach,” she said to Ritzau.
“I think we have a realistic proposal that also takes into consideration the needs of neighbouring countries,” she said.
Denmark and Austria would continue working for an agreement with other EU countries to enable the implementation of the deportation centre outside of the EU, she said.
According to broadcaster DR’s report from the Vienna press conference, the location and timescale for opening of the proposed centre is currently being kept under wraps.
Kickl said he was optimistic about the proposal’s prospects but would not give further detail, DR writes.