Danes tap migration envoy as EU eyes asylum system reforms

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — The Danish government on Thursday appointed an envoy to “help open doors” for a new approach on migration to Europe and to “ensure that real refugees are helped faster and better in the surrounding areas.”

The move comes as the European Union’s executive body prepares to unveil vast reforms to the bloc’s asylum and migration system, and fits with the position of EU leaders who have mostly focused on beefing up Europe’s borders and outsourcing work to curb migration to Northern Africa countries and Turkey.

Denmark wants to set up migrant reception centers in one or more countries outside the EU to diminish the incentive for migrants to seek asylum in Denmark. The Danish government also wants to improve the deportation of rejected asylum-seekers and to support agencies in countries along the most common migration routes.

The Danish Foreign Ministry said the new special envoy, Anders Tang Friborg, and a task force established on Sept. 1 would “support the work for a fair and humane asylum system.” Denmark is already involved in several projects designed to prevent migrants from reaching Europe and to improve the process for getting those who do make it to return home.

Denmark’s Social Democratic government “wants as few spontaneous asylum-seekers as possible” to come into the country and “we will achieve this goal, among other things, by establishing one or more reception centers outside the EU and thereby removing the migrants’ incentive to cross the Mediterranean,” Acting Immigration Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said.

Denmark intends to take a lead in the outsourcing the job of curtailing migration, hoping other countries will follow.

“It will be anything but easy. But we are working on it and hope that the new ambassador and the strengthened task force can contribute to fulfilling the ambitions,” Dybvad Bek said in a statement that did not say what non-EU countries Denmark was thinking about outsourcing to.

The arrival in 2015 of well over a million migrants and refugees seeking sanctuary or better lives sparked one of the European Union’s biggest recent political crises. Coastal Mediterranean coastal countries felt abandoned by their fellow EU members as they struggled to cope. Others erected fences to keep migrants out.

Countries bickered over who should take responsibility and whether they should be obliged to help. The foundation of Europe’s asylum system – a rule stating that migrants must apply for asylum and stay in the country where they first arrive — remains a contentious issue that the EU has not addressed.

Denmark received about 20,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, a small number compared with its Swedish and German neighbors.

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Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

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