By Julie Astrid Thomsen
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark will no longer take in refugees under a U.N. resettlement program after passing a law on Wednesday that enables the government to determine how many may enter the country instead of accepting a set quota.
Since 1989, Denmark has agreed to take 500 refugees a year selected by the United Nations under a program to ease the burden on countries that neighbor war zones.
But after the European migration crisis in 2015 brought almost 20,000 claims for asylum, Denmark has refused to take any U.N. quota refugees and the center-right government's new law aims to cut total refugee numbers to no more than 500 a year.
Last year, more than 6,000 people claimed asylum in Denmark. Between January and November this year a little over 3,000 people did.
The opposition Social-Liberal Party said opting out of the U.N. program would increase pressure on countries already accommodating large numbers of refugees, and the move could encourage others countries to follow suit.
Under the new law, the immigration minister will decide how many refugees will be allowed, but the number can never surpass 500 each year unless there is an "exceptional situation".
"It's hard to predict how many refugees and migrants will show up at the border to seek asylum, and we know it may be hard to integrate those who arrive here," Immigration and Integration Minister Inger Stojberg said last month when her ministry proposed the law.
(Reporting by Julie Astrid Thomsen; Editing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Robin Pomeroy)