Danish ministers visit Rwanda but stay quiet on agreement

Denmark’s immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye and international development minister Flemming Møller Mortensen travelled to Rwanda this week to sign an agreement with the Rwandan government.

Danish ministers visit Rwanda but stay quiet on agreement
Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye is one of two senior Danish government officials to take part in talks in Rwanda this week. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

The trip was not publicised by Copenhagen, but the ministers could be seen in photos tweeted by Rwanda’s foreign ministry.

Both Tesfaye and Mortensen have so far refused to comment on the details of the agreement, according to DR.

The Danish foreign ministry has, however, confirmed that the two countries have agreed to work more closely on asylum and migration, the broadcaster writes.

“This is not a case of a binding agreement, but a mutual framework for future partnership. The two governments will spend the coming period discussing concrete areas where the partnership can be strengthened,” the ministry wrote to DR.

The two Danish ministers have not given any comments to media in Denmark regarding the visit, which was scheduled to last four days, according to the ministry.

“We’re going to work together in different ways, and what’s going to happen next is to see together how we can start implementing what we have signed,” Mortensen said at a ceremony for the agreement, according to Rwandan newspaper The New Times.

The Rwandan media also writes that the agreement will “largely focus on promoting cooperation in political and migration issues”.

“This broad agreement will focus on global refugee issues, both in Rwanda and in other countries, including Denmark, and will return to other topics including investment, trade, sharing of climate change and technology,” Professor Manasseh Nshuti, Rwanda’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the East African Community, said according to The New Times.

Although the content of the agreement is unclear, Denmark’s Social Democratic government has a long-standing desire to establish a reception centre for refugees in a third country.

“The two Danish ministers refuse to speak to the Danish press. We can therefore not get confirmation that the two sides have discussed – or agreed – that Rwanda will in future accept some of Denmark’s asylum seekers,” DR’s Africa correspondent Søren Bendixen said to the broadcaster.

Rwanda in 2019 built a centre for asylum seekers stranded in Libya, but that centre has received a limited number of asylum seekers so far, DR reports based on UN data.

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Swedish Migration Agency boss admits confusing ‘patchwork’ of rules

Mikael Ribbenvik, the outgoing Director General of the Swedish Migration Agency, has acknowledged that Sweden's migration rules are a messy "patchwork", saying that he understands why applicants are confused.

Swedish Migration Agency boss admits confusing 'patchwork' of rules

In an interview with the Sydsvenskan newspaper, Ribbenvik, who will end his 24-year career at the Migration Agency in May, complained that migration legislation had become ever more complicated and confusing over the past decade as a result of a series of coalition governments where different parties have “sought to cram in all their pet issues”. 

Since the refugee crisis in 2015, there has been the temporary migration law from 2016, which made temporary residency the default for asylum seekers, and then the two ‘gymnasium laws’, which he described as “half-amnesties”. 

The two laws opened the way for people who had come to Sweden as unaccompanied child asylum seekers and whose asylum application had been rejected to stay if they finished upper secondary school and got a job. 

Now, Ribbenvik worried, a new barrage of new laws from the three-party right wing government and their far-right backers, the Sweden Democrats, risked making the system even more complicated. 

“The legislation is starting to become too complicated for anyone to understand. It’s absolutely impossible to explain in the media, because you don’t have the time,” he told the newspaper. “We need to have our absolutely smartest migration people in our legal unit to work everything out.” 

When the new government announced its intention to phase out permanent residency, the agency’s phones were deluged with worried calls from permanent residency holders. 

Ribbenvik summarised the message to Sydsvenskan as: “OK, you can stay… no, you can’t stay.”

“I have a great amount of understanding for the confusion this has caused,” he said. “Debate articles attack the Migration Agency, and we’re an easy target. But this is a consequence of the legislation there has been in recent years.” 

After Sweden’s government announced that Ribbenvik’s contract was not going to be extended, Björn Söder, a Sweden Democrat MP and member of the parliament’s defence committee, celebrated the decision. 

“Time to tidy up Agency Sweden,” Söder wrote on Twitter. “Kick the asylum activists out of the agency.”

In the Sydsvenskan interview, Ribbenvik characterised himself as a “proud bureaucrat”, who was apolitical and saw his role as enacting the orders of politicians in the best way possible. He didn’t join the agency because of a passion for immigration issues, but because he needed a part-time job while he finished his law degree, he said. 

“I read now that I’m a Director-General appointed by the Social Democrats. So am I going to be politicised now, right at the end? Because I never have been before.” 

Very often, he said, attacks like Söder’s “say nothing about the accused, but a lot about the accuser”. 

He did say, however, tell the newspaper that he had been surprised by how quickly the debate had shifted in Sweden from the days when most of the criticism the agency received came from those wanting more liberal treatment for asylum seekers to today, when they are accused of being too lenient. 

“As someone who’s worked here for 24 years, I’m stunned over how the debate has shifted in recent months, when the whole time I’ve been here, it’s been the opposite: ‘why do you analyse people’s language, why do you do age assessments?’. We’ve always been criticised from the other direction.”