UNHCR urges Denmark to change refugee policy

16 sharp recommendations to the Danish government on how to get back on track

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees representation for the Nordic and Baltic countries addressed the Danish Government, parliamentarians and other relevant actors and stakeholders in a letter of 11 pages.

The letter expresses gratitude for and recognition of the historical work Denmark has carried out on refugee protection, and the overall well-established systems for asylum processing and the integration of refugees in the country. However, the letter contains also 16 recommendations on issues where the UNHCR is concerned by Danish legislation and practice regarding refugees.

The office points in the letter to the fact that Denmark currently hosts its lowest number of asylum seekers in over a decade and that UNHCR has already warned against many of the new restrictions the country has introduced in recent years. The so-called 'paradigm shift' of 2019 has been a serious concern. This was when the Danish Parliament changed the starting point for refugees from long-term integration to short-term stay, with a focus on returning individuals as soon as possible. 

In short, the office is advising that Denmark get back in line with international and European refugee protection standards, in particular by ensuring long-term stability, security and fair access to family reunification. It also warns that recent restrictions will hinder future integration. The letter urges Denmark to show more solidarity at the European level and take on greater responsibility in the world.

UNHCR recommends that Denmark:

1. Uphold the quality level of the Danish asylum procedure by ensuring quality decision-making and safeguarding;

2. Refrain from a regular mandatory review of protection needs, and align standards and practice for the loss of subsidiary status (cessation) with Article 1 C of the 1951 Convention;

3. Align the length of permits for the three protection categories;

4. Grant secure, stable status for refugees with residence permits of longer duration, for a minimum of five years;

- Remove legal and practical obstacles to family reunification by:

5. allowing those covered by the new temporary status Art. 7(3) to reunite with their families without the current waiting period;

6. ensuring that all children between 15 and 18 are entitled to family reunification in line with the Convention of the Rights of the Child;

7. applying flexible and humane criteria for family reunification outside of the nuclear family;

8. reintroducing the use of Danish Consulates or Nordic Embassies to issue travel documents.

- Improve the commitment to end statelessness by:

9. aligning with the Conventions on Statelessness and on the Rights of the Child so that children born stateless in Denmark will acquire Danish citizenship automatically;

10. establishing a procedure to determine a formal status for stateless persons who are unable to return to their country or previous habitual residence;

- Contribute to an effective EU and global protection regime by:

11. actively supporting and formally participating in a Common European Asylum System;

12. supporting an effective mechanism for sharing responsibility for asylum claims inside EU;

13. cooperating with countries of origin and transit while refraining from promoting externalisation, as this presents a threat to the global asylum system;

14. promote the Global Compact on Refugees on the international political agenda and ensure its effective implementation;

15. increase the Danish resettlement quota and introduce complementary pathways, including work, study visa, community-based sponsorship programs and improve access to family reunification;

16. continue commitment to increased predictable financial and flexible humanitarian and development funding, to support international and local organisations as well as host countries as they respond to refugee situations around the world.

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