An undisclosed sum was paid to Britain to accept 23 interpreters
Denmark has paid the UK an undisclosed sum to accept 23 Afghan refugees who worked as interpreters for the Danish state for eight years.
According to a report by Swedish broadsheet Svenska Dagbladet, the interpreters were granted a residence permit in the UK after twelve of them had their visa applications to Denmark rejected and eleven wanted to travel to the UK themselves.
Even though the interpreters were technically employed by the British military, they worked for the Danes, wearing Danish uniform and received a Danish salary.
The amount — paid for in secret by the Danish state — has been calculated according to what it would cost the British to evacuate the interpreters, integrate them into society and pay social costs for five years. The payment has been confirmed by the Danish Ministry of Defence to SvD.
“I have never before, neither during my time in the UN or the EU or as a lawyer in Denmark, seen anything like this.” Poul Hauch Fenger, asylum law expert who previously worked for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the newspaper.
When it comes to immigration, Denmark has adopted a notably restrictionist approach since the centre-Left Social Democrat party swept to power on a pledge to reduce the number of immigrants entering the country in 2019. Arguing that it was needed to protect Denmark’s generous welfare system, it promised to focus on integrating migrants and refugees already in the country.
Over the last two years, the government has taken an increasingly hardline stance, with the passage of a controversial new law enabling Denmark to deport asylum seekers outside Europe while applications are being processed. This move was part of the government’s pledge to limit ‘non-western’ immigrants — a category codified in Danish law — in disadvantaged neighbourhoods so as to protect the Danish way of life. Earlier this year, the state revoked the residency permits of some Syrian refugees on the grounds it was now apparently safe to return to Damascus.
This goes some way to explaining the highly selective process by which Afghans have entered the country. So far only five interpreters who worked with the Danish military have been granted asylum in Denmark, out of 139 who had applied.
But it also raises a number of questions about the UK’s own immigration procedures. Why is the UK accepting eleven interpreters whose visas were rejected by Denmark? How much was the UK paid and on what basis? Given that the country is already taking in 20,000 refugees, why is it accepting more from other countries too?
The Home Office and Ministry of Defence have been contacted for comment.