29 January 2016

On Tuesday 26 January, the Danish parliament voted on the controversial bill reducing refugees and asylum seekers rights in the country.  The bill was approved by 81 votes to 27, with the support of all rightwing parties and, notably, of the leading opposition party, the Social Democrats.

While the headlines have focused on that part of the bill which allows police to search and seize refugees’ valuables over a certain amount that is not the most worrying development, as the number of refugees who arrive to Denmark with that amount of money is negligible. In any case, as ECRE’s Senior Legal and Policy Officer Kris Pollet stated in an interview with Newsweek, “It’s hard to see how that would in any way help to address the costs relating to the accommodation of asylum seekers…This is a very deplorable practice.”

What is more concerning is the delay in family reunification procedures to three years, which in practice means that vulnerable people will be asked to remain in life-threatening situations for a longer time before they have a chance to be reunited with their loved ones. Andreas Kamm, Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council – an ECRE member – stated that this delay “hampers the integration process for those who already arrived and it leaves alone those who are back in the region, as vulnerable groups. It’s very worrying and it’s very inhumane.”

There are also other restrictions to refugees’ rights foreseen in the bill, which have not been publicised so widely: restrictive eligibility requirements for permanent residency, the introduction of a fee of around 900 euros for the family reunification procedure and reductions to the duration of temporary residence permits. “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,” stated Amnesty International in a press release published before the bill was approved.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 29 January 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.