UN warns against Denmark's paradigm shift

UNHCR once again urges Denmark to adjust its refugee policy in a new 12-pages paper

It is not the first time that the UN Refugee Agency aims a sharp critique at Denmark from their regional office for the Nordic and Baltic countries. Over the past years, UNHCR has also submitted observations on a range of Danish law proposals, such as the introduction of a temporary subsidiary protection category, confiscation of valuables from asylum-seekers, restrictions on family reunification, reduced social benefits for refugees, introduction of short-term residence permits, mandatory regular review of protection needs, increased use of cessation, restrictive criteria for permanent residency and the temporary halt of the resettlement programme. Two years ago, UNHCR released a 16-page paper on Danish asylum policy.

UNHCR is worried about a number of limitations which Denmark have introduced regarding asylum and notes that many were passed during the special situation in 2015-2016 but are still in place though things have normalized long ago.

UNHCR criticizes the "paradigm shift" from 2019 for having a disproportionate focus on "temporariness", which will be a hindrance for fast and successful integration into Danish society. If refugees do not have a sense of peace and stability, it creates insecurity and anxiety which is a barrier to the integration process. Even though asylum in certain cases can be revoked, it was never the intention that refugees were to be subjected to constant reassessments once their protection needs had first been established. According to the UNHCR Denmark should not revoke temporary protection status when the situation in the home country is still fragile and unpredictable.

The plans to externalize asylum assessment to a third country has also met strong resistance from UNHCR. Denmark is accused of undermining the global system for protection and refusing to acknowledge its responsibilities.

Refugees Welcome's chairman Michala Clante Bendixen visited UNHCR in Stockholm in September this year.

After a preliminary recognition of the efforts that Denmark has done over the years, for instance by accepting quota refugees and supporting UNHCR's global work economically, a long list of critical points and accordingly recommendations follows. In the short version Denmark is urged:

 • To use the fast, efficient and flexible reception of Ukrainians in future reception of refugees from other countries.

• To respect art. 1 C of the Refugee Convention on cessation and revoking for all three asylum categories.

• To refrain from a regular mandatory review of the protection needs.

• To align the length of permits for three asylum categories and grant a stable status, preferably for a minimum of 5 years.

• To facilitate access to family reunification: children above 15 years should have the same access as younger children according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, family members outside the nuclear family should also have access, and the use of Danish consulates and Nordic embassies should be reintroduced in connection to travel documents.

• To establish a procedure for identifying statelessness, using a formal status, and to grant Danish citizenship automatically to children born stateless in Denmark, regardless of residence status.

• To actively support the development of a common European asylum system and fully participate in it.

• To stop working on any externalization plans and instead develop the cooperation with the EU and transit countries to extend reception of people with a need for protection.

• To continue promoting the Global Compact on Refugees.

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