The asylum restrictions in brief summary

Overview of the new of restrictions for refugees in Denmark, L87

The Danish Government announced in November 2015  34 tightenings to make Denmark less attractive for asylum seekers, with the aim of stopping the influx. Only one week later the first 13 were already passed with only 23 hours for public comments (see the list at the bottom). In January the next portion of restrictions were passed, called L87. 

An important point in the list of the original 34 has not yet been passed: extending the lower integration allowance to include everybody with less than 7 years of legal stay during the last 8 years. A draft is in the process and a proposal will soon be out. It is expected that the reduced allowances will be introduced from July 1.

1. Asylum granted for shorter time

Until now, asylum has been granted for typically 5 years in the first place, with an option for extension. This will be reduced in the following way:
§7,1 (convention status): 2 years
§7,2 (individual protection status): 1 year
§7,3 (general protection status): 1 year

2. Further delay of the right to family reunification

In the future, refugees with a residence permit under §7,3 under the Danish Alien Act (general protection) will have to wait for 3 years before they can apply for family reunification, whereas the rule used to be 1 year.

At present, 20% of the Syrian refugees but no other nationalities are granted this new form of protection. It is given to refugees who don't have an individual asylum motive, but "only" fled from the general war. Mostly unaccompanied minors, women and men above 43 years are given this status. The first time it is granted for 1 year, and if extended this will be with 2 years at a time. 

Refugees who are granted asylum according to  §7,2 (individual protection status) and §7,1 (convention status) will still have the right to apply for family reunification as soon as they are granted asylum.

The 3 years of waiting time is found to be a direct breach of the right to family life by The Danish Institute for Human Rights and many other experts. The government are aware of this, and states in the law proposal that it is prepared to take the risk of being overruled by The European Court of Human Rights.

An important fact is that the actual time of separation between the family members will be 4-5 years, when including the processing time for the asylum case and the family reunification case.

Unaccompanied minors who are granted §7,3 can apply to have their parents and siblings up here immediately, but Immigration Service does not inform them of this.

The new rule will also affect the refugees who have been granted asylum earlier after §7,3 and were told there would be a 1-year waiting time – they will now have to wait another 2 years.

3. Stricter rules for permanent residence permit

Imperative requirements (must all be met):

  • Minimum 6 years of legal stay – or 4 years if meeting all the supplementary requirements (used to be 5 years)
  • Criminal offenses will lead to penalty period (raised by 50% from the present level) and more types of crime will lead to permanent exclusion
  • Passed exam of Prøve i dansk 2 or similar (used to be dansk 1)
  • Ordinary full time job for minimum 2 1/2 years out of the last 3 years (education and part time jobs will no longer count)

Supplementary requirements (at least two of the following have to be met as well):

  • Passed citizen test (a lighter version of the citizenship test)
  • Proof of being an active citizen during 1 year (for example, being a member of the school board)
  • Ordinary full time job during 4 years
  • A yearly, taxable income of minimum 270,000 DKR on average for the last two years

Easier access for refugees will be revoked, so that everybody has to meet the same requirements in the future. The only exemption is proof of not being able to meet some of the criteria due to lasting disability (here The Disability Convention comes into force). Dispensation will also be fully or partly possible for people on retirement or early retirement pension.

On all parameters, the requirements have been raised compared to the present rules, and in the future quite a large amount of refugees will never be able to meet them. Especially full time job and Prøve i dansk 2 are out of reach for many refugees. To understand why, read more about language schools here and job statistics here (in Danish). 

Permanent residence permit is a condition to obtain citizenship, and also to bring a spouse to Denmark (exempt are refugees who already established a family before leaving), and for refugees it is an emotionally important thing to know that you can stay.

Will affect all applications after December 10th 2015.

4. Stricter rules for withdrawing a residence permit from a refugee

As a refugee you will be issued either a foreigner's passport or a convention passport, and in the passport is marked a ban on entry to the home country. In the future this can also be to other countries. A violation will lead to loosing the residence permit in Denmark, and the option will be used more than now. In certain cases it is possible to apply for a permit to entry on beforehand (for example, to a funeral).

5. Fees

Some years ago, certain types of applications and complaints cost a fee, and these will be reintroduced. It will, however, still be free of cost to apply for asylum, appeal to the Refugee Appeals Board and apply for family reunification for refugees. In other cases, the fee must be paid before admitting the application, and in certain cases the fee will be reimbursed. 

Family reunification + §9c,1: 7,000 DKR
Extension of permit (not asylum): 1,800 DKR
Permanent residence permit: 3,700 DKR
Appeal to the Immigration Board: 805 DKR

Will affect all applications after March 1st 2016.

6. Self payment of transport for family reunification

Until now it has been possible to apply for covering the expense for flight tickets to refugees' family members who got residence permit and must travel to Denmark. This option has now been abolished. The amounts can be quite high and therefore impossible to raise for a newly arrived refugee on the low integration allowance, and in this way it can be a real hindrance for family reunification.

7. Withdrawal of asylum seekers funds and extended self-payment

The police will get access to search asylum seekers and confiscate means to cover expenses for accommodation, food and health service. The limit was set to above 10,000 DKR, and items of personal value are exempt.

A very controversial proposal, forcing an officer to assess the value of for instance jewelry. But during the public debate, one thing has not been mentioned: staying in asylum camps is mandatory. Many asylum seekers will be offered to stay with relatives or friends for free, but they are not allowed to do that.  It is likewise not an option to stay in a hotel or rent a room, which would in many cases be cheaper than covering the state's expenses at an asylum camp. 

8. Lowering cash allowances for asylum seekers

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work (see ch. 7). A single asylum seeker in phase 1 in a camp with canteen receives at present 9,15 DKR per day (274,50 per month). Same person in a camp with self-catering gets 54,80 DKR per day (1,644,00 per month). A bonus will be paid out for children. These allowances will be cut down by 10% (note for readers outside Denmark: 1 loaf of white toast bread costs around 15 DKR). 

The government has announced that more asylum camps must establish canteens and stop self-catering, but this is not included in the passed laws.

The allowances are already extremely low for some types of asylum seekers, in fact hundreds of rejected asylum seekers already now get 0 DKR and live solely from canteen food, with only basic personal hygiene items given on the side. On so low or no allowances at all, asylum seekers are prevented from leaving the camps, which almost all are situated far from the cities – there is no money for transport. There is also no way to cover phone cards, hairdresser, cigarettes, makeup or other small things. See more about present allowances here.

9. Revoking the access to live outside the camps and work

Back in 2008 it was decided that families with children who had been staying for more than 12 months after final rejection should have the option to move out of the camps in individual accommodation, out of concern for the children who were clearly getting sick in the camps. This will now end, and be phased out for the ones who are already staying outside.

Danish Red Cross has again and again stated that the camps are only meant for short time stays of maximum one year. However, it is a fact that the asylum cases often take more than one year to decide, and a smaller part of the rejected ones end up spending many years – up to 18 years – in the camps. The remote location, the close interaction with many other cultures, the large amount of people with trauma in combination with the passive, powerless waiting position without meaningful daily activities are inevitably leading to mental sickness, conflicts and lack of integration.

In the light of this, a majority in Parliament passed in 2012 en extended access to get out of the camps and have a more meaningful life after 6 months of stay. Unfortunately, the criteria were complicated and the procedure bureaucratic, so in fact it did not lead to many jobs. Quite a number of families are, however, now living outside the camps as a consequence of the two political deals, which has mainly benefited the children.

In the future we can expect to see a rising number of children developing mental problems and disturbances in their development.

10. Changing the criteria for quota refugees

The government wants to return to the criteria which were used by the Fogh administration, according to which the refugees have to be easy to integrate (based on language, education, work experience, family relations, network, age and motivation).

Quota refugees (or resettlement refugees) are taken out from the UNHCR refugee camps all over the world. Denmark accepts 500 each year, and they are chosen after a personal interview by the Danish Immigration Service and the Danish Refugee Council.

An argument for this system is, that it represents a way to bring some of the most vulnerable refugees in safety. The long, expensive and dangerous journey, which is necessary to find one's own way to safety, means that only the most resourceful are able to make it. Critics have said that the government's proposal in the same way will favour the strongest and leave the weak behind.

13 tightenings passed on November 17, 2015:

• Extended access to detention of rejected asylum seekers 
– detentions used faster after rejection and generally used more 

Shorter time limit to leave the country  
– present 15 days will be changed to 7 days 

• More control with foreigners in deportation center 
– electronic access control 

Extended use of daily/weekly duty to register and the duty to stay in one place 

Access to deviate from the normal Danish civil laws when accommodating asylum seekers 

Access to use buildings for accommodating or detaining asylum seekers without owner's permission

• Access to force municipalities to run asylum camps 

• Access to use private entrepreneurs to perform tasks for the authorities concerning foreigners 

Limitation of the right to be put before a judge within 72 hours of detention for foreigners
– the existing right can be suspended 

Option of detaining asylum seekers on the grounds of establishing their identity and other things 

•  Access to stop busses, trains and ferries 

Fewer rooms accepted on housing of refugee families (with residence permit)

Rules about noise and environment not to be used when accommodating refugees