COPENHAGEN Denmark is considering moving migrants into camps outside its towns and cities, a tactic that the anti-immigration Danish People's Party (DF) hopes will shift the focus of government immigration policy to repatriation rather than integration.
Denmark has been widely criticized in the past month for proposals to tighten immigration laws including using refugees' valuables to pay for their stay and postponing family reunification to three years.
Led by the anti-immigration, eurosceptic DF party, parliament passed the resolution, which will force the government to come up with a proposal by March to build state-backed "villages" to replace housing in cities and towns.
Some tent camps have already been set up for single male refugees to give migrant families priority in cities.
The refugee debate is hot in Denmark, which took in a record 20,000 refugees last year, with a poll showing 70 percent of voters see it as the most important issue on the political agenda, according to the daily paper Berlingske.
A separate poll showed 37 percent disagreed with giving more residence permits to refugees, compared with about 20 percent in September.
Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen traveled to Geneva on Thursday to explain his government's policy to the United Nation's Human Rights Council during the organization's regular review of the human rights situation in the country.
The Danish government has also been summoned before the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee of the EU parliament on Monday to defend its reforms.
Parliament held a second debate on Thursday on the proposals to tighten immigration rules and takes a final vote on Jan. 26.
Referring to those proposals, Amnesty's Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia, said Gauri van Gulik, said: "The international community must call Denmark out as it enters a race to the bottom".
"Denmark was one of the first champions of the Refugee Convention, but its government is now brazenly creating blocks to the well-being and safety of refugee families."
The seven-month-old government, which initially opposed the measure, has just 34 out of 179 seats in parliament and depends on the support of parties to the right of center, including the Danish People's Party.
(Editing by Sabina Zawadzki and Louise Ireland)