The Danish government announced on Tuesday (7 October) that refugees will only be eligible for family reunification if their initial one-year residence permits are renewed. According to the Danish Ministry of Justice, the proposed rules would take into account that there may be exceptional reasons that require the family reunification to happen faster in order to continue meeting Denmark’s international obligations.

Denmark’s Minister of Justice, Karen Hækkerup, said: “There are major consequences and costs associated with moving an entire family to Denmark. Therefore, that should also only happen if there is a prospect of remaining in Denmark for a certain duration. But if the conflict drags on and the stay is extended, it is reasonable that a person could bring their spouse and children to Denmark.”

Andreas Kamm, Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council and Chairman of the ECRE Board, said that hardly anyone believed that the conflict in Syria would be over in a year and it was “inhumane” to put people in a situation whereby they know that the lives of their families are in danger in Syria and its neighbouring countries. “It is Syrian women and children who will pay the prize”, he said. “We should be keeping families together, but the reform proposals of the government will lead to the fragmentation of families instead”, Kamm added.

“We run the risk that children will be killed while waiting for the deadline of 12 months to pass”, said Member of the Parliament Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen

Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in March 2011 until August 2014, some 6,300 Syrians have sought protection in Denmark and just 131,500 in the 28 EU Member States. As for 2014, according to the forecast of the Danish Government, 20,000 people will have applied for asylum in the country by the end of the year. Lebanon alone, a country of just over 4 million inhabitants, is hosting over one million Syrian refugees.

In September, Denmark introduced a renewable one-year resident permit for refugees fleeing war.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 10 October 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.