On Tuesday, January 26th, 2016, a broad majority in the Folketing (Danish parliament) passed bill L 87 which introduces a long series of restrictive measures aimed at making it less attractive to seek asylum in Denmark.
Internationally the focus has been directed mainly at the part of the bill that authorizes the police to take jewellery, cash and other valuables from asylum seekers in order to finance the cost of their stay in Denmark during asylum procedures.
The Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten), which holds 14 of the 179 seats in the Folketing, is against this part of the bill but does not consider it the most problematic part. In practice it will hardly have any affect, as most asylum seekers arrive without significant valuables. Furthermore the new law excludes jewellery with an emotional value to the asylum seeker. And each asylum seeker (including children) gets to keep the equivalent of DKK 10.000 (EUR 1.340) in cash in those rare cases when asylum seekers arrive with appreciable amounts of money.
The far most problematic part of bill L 87 is the exclusion of refugees on “temporary protection status” (according to article 7.3 of the Danish aliens law) from familiy renufication for the first three years after being granted residency.
According to Danish law the target group of this article is war refugees who are “not individually persecuted” in their home countries. The article has been part of the aliens law for almost a year. The practice of the Danish Immigration Service and the Danish Refugee Appeals Board shows that mainly women, men above the age of 42 and unaccompanied minors (all with a Syrian background) receive this status. Syrian men between the ages of 18 and 42 are generally seen as being convention refugees according to article 7.1 of the Danish aliens law and thus have full rights to family reunification immediately after being granted asylum. Only a relatively small percentage of refugees receive “temporary protection status” in Denmark. But the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) sees the limitations in the rights to family reunification as an unacceptable measure againts this limited group of refugees who, naturally, deserve full rights to seek safety with their loved ones in Denmark like other refugees.
Until now refugees with “temporary protection status” (7.3) have not had the right to family reunification for the first year after receiving residence permit in Denmark. This one year is now, by bill L 87, extended to a period of three years.
This has been heavily criticized by the UNHCR and a long series of Danish NGOs. The Danish Institute for Human Rights has – in its comments to bill L 87 – established that there is a “very strong foundation” (“meget sikkert grundlag”) in the legal precedent of the European Court of Human Rights that this part of the bill is not in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Bill L 87 also makes it more difficult for persons without a Danish citizenship to obtain permanent residence permit in the country. It abolishes the eased access of refugees to obtain permanent residency. It limits the rights of refugees with Danish refugee passports to travel to certain countries. It introduces a series of stiff fees on applications for family reunification and permanent residency. It contains a 10 per cent reduction of the benefits asylum seekers receive during the time their cases are processed. It strongly limits asylum seekers’ rights to live outside the asylum centres. It changes the criteria for selection of the yearly 500 UNHCR quota refugees for resettlement in Denmark. Future quota refugees shall be chosen according to their “integration potential” in Denmark. Accordning to bill L 87 this means that, in general, illiterates do not qualify for resettlement in Denmark.
The total content of bill L 87 is a serious blow to Denmark’s humanitarian image, to the country’s willingness to take international responsibility in solving the refugee crisis and to the integration of refugees and other migrants who have come to Denmark.
The aim of bill L 87 is – as often stated by the Danish government – to reduce Denmark’s attractivity as a country of asylum. The government hopes that the new law will discourage asylum seekers from coming to Denmark and encourage them to choose other European countries. The Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) sees this as an unconstructive, selfish, non-humanitarian and irresponsible approach to the European and global refugee situation.
The only common purpose of all the proposals in the 95 page document of bill L 87 is to make Denmark less attractive as an asylum country. The effect is that it makes life more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers who are in Denmark or who will arrive in the country in the coming months and years.
Therefore the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) has – along with three other minority parties and three members of the Social Democratic party – voted against bill L 87.
Denmark is not, like the neighbouring countries of Germany and Sweden, at the forefront of European countries that have taken more that their share of Syrian refugees in 2015. On the other hand Denmark is not among the countries that have refused to participate at all.
According to the agreement at the Edinburgh EU summit of 1992 Denmark has an opt-out concerning the common EU asylum policy. This does, however, not exclude Denmark from taking part in a fair distribution of refugees inside the European Union. As the EU has, in 2015, shown itself to be unable to find a common and responsible solution, the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) urges the countries of Europe to enter a coalition of the willing in order to take joint responsibility for solving problems. This includes a fair distribution of the refugees and asylum seekers that have so far arrived in Europa and massive aid in order to stabilize the countries bordering on Syria and helping the Syrian refugees in those countries.
January 28th, 2016
Migration policy adviser Niels Rohleder – E-mail: [email protected], Direct telephone: +45 33 37 50 79