by UnHerd News
Thursday, 9
September 2021
Spotted
14:02

Denmark is paying the UK to take their Afghan refugees

An undisclosed sum was paid to Britain to accept 23 interpreters
by UnHerd News
Protesters in Copenhagen, Denmark. Credit: Getty

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 has been contacted for comment.

Join the discussion


  • I don’t quite understand the lawyer’s surprise: isn’t this, in essence, the same as the EU’s deal with Turkey? Turkey is paid a handsome sum of money to hold refugees back and allow the EU to sidestep any obligations. The UK is paid a sum of money by Denmark so that Denmark can shift its obligations onto the UK (or at least shunt people out of the country towards whom it does not believe it has any obligation). It is all quite cynical but to come over all shocked as if these kinds of practices are entirely new is not credible.

  • Perhaps the reason the UK is accepting them is because it is without question the right and only honourable thing to do in this instance, both recognising their service and preventing their near certain deaths at home, so shame on the Danes.

  • Agreed. I’m generally not a fan of the way the asylum laws are constantly abused, you just have to look at the boat loads of people “fleeing” France crossing the channel for that, and the too many economic migrants are somehow classed as refugees, but to me this is a different scenario. These people are genuinely in danger because they assisted western nations, therefore I think it’s wrong for those same western nations to turn their backs on them. I don’t believe we have a duty to house every Afghan refugee, but we do the ones that worked for us

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