Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 14:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Denmark

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 January 1999
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 1999 - Denmark , 1 January 1999, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 1998, Denmark hosted 6,112 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 1,485 pending asylum applicants, 1,094 granted refugees status, 2,878 issued de facto status, 202 granted temporary protection, and 453 resettled refugees.

During the year, 5,699 asylum seekers in Denmark filed applications, a 12 percent increase over the 5,100 applications in 1997. The largest groups of asylum seekers arrived from Iraq (1,921), Somalia (617), former Yugoslavia (368), Afghanistan (332), and Croatia (295). Some 229 unaccompanied minors sought asylum in Denmark during the year.

Of the 6,118 first-instance cases decided in 1998, the Danish Immigration Service granted refugee status to 903 applicants, an approval rate of 15 percent. Some 2,653 persons received de facto refugee status, 43 percent of all first-instance decisions. A total of 2,562 applicants, 42 percent, were rejected.

At the appeals stage, 191 persons received Convention refugee status, representing 10 percent of the 1,819 second-instance decisions made in 1998. Denmark granted 225 persons de facto refugee status in the second instance. The Refugee Appeals Board upheld the denials of 1,403 applicants, 77 percent of all the Board's decisions during the year. At year's end, 807 persons had appeals pending.

As in 1997, the Immigration Service looked most favorably upon the applications of stateless Palestinians, granting Convention refugee status to 304, an approval rate of 83 percent. Asylum seekers from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had a 61 percent approval rate.

Denmark annually resettles "quota" refugees selected by UNHCR. In 1998, Denmark accepted 453 persons for resettlement. Principal countries of origin were Iraq (201), and Iran (152), accounting for 78 percent of all resettled refugees during the year.

Asylum Procedure

The Danish asylum procedure is governed by the Aliens Act of 1983, as amended. An asylum seeker may lodge an application in Denmark or with a Danish Embassy/Consulate abroad. While the vast majority of asylum seekers apply upon arrival, Denmark received 350 asylum applications from abroad in 1998.

The Danish Immigration Service makes firstinstance decisions on asylum applications. The Immigration Service may grant Convention refugee status or de facto refugee status, the latter for applicants who do not meet the UN Refugee Convention criteria, but who "ought not be required to return" to the country of origin.

Applicants rejected in the first instance may appeal the decision to the Refugee Appeals Board, an independent governmental body. Those rejected upon appeal may apply to the Ministry of the Interior for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, usually within a ten-day limit after the Appeals Board's decision. Denmark deported some 1,672 rejected asylum seekers in 1998.

The Immigration Service may exercise a special procedure for applications deemed "manifestly unfounded." Such applications are passed onto the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). If the DRC supports the initial negative decision, the applicant is denied the opportunity to appeal. The DRC may also oppose the initial ruling, in which case it is considered a normal negative decision with the right to appeal.

Individuals whose cases are rejected as manifestly unfounded may apply to the Ministry of Interior for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds. Since 1995, Danish law has permitted the detention of asylum seekers whose applications are, or are expected to be, in the manifestly unfounded procedure.

Denmark maintains a list of "safe countries of origin" to identify claims as manifestly unfounded. The list includes the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Russia, Benin, Ghana, Niger, and Tanzania. Claims submitted by persons from these countries are forwarded directly to the DRC.

During 1998, the Immigration Service rejected the applications of 462 asylum seekers as manifestly unfounded. The DRC vetoed the manifestly unfounded rulings in 25 percent of the cases, thus granting these applicants the right to appeal their rejections.

Asylum Amendments

Following the March elections in Denmark – in which refugee and asylum issues figured prominently – the Danish parliament amended the Aliens Act and passed legislation related to integration policy. Danish refugee advocates characterized the debate leading up to the legislative changes as xenophobic and hostile. The Act on Amendment of the Aliens Act and the Criminal Code came into force on July 3, 1998. The Integration Act was set to take effect on January 1, 1999.

As a result of the Amendment of the Aliens Act and the Criminal Code, asylum seekers will have to substantiate an individual fear of persecution to be granted "de facto" refugee status. No longer will generally poor conditions, including civil war in countries of origin, constitute grounds for de facto status.

The law restricts family reunification and extends the time for refugees and immigrants to acquire permanent residence permits from eighteen months to three years. To qualify for a permanent residence permit, a refugee now must not be in debt to the state by more than 50,000 Danish Crowns or have committed a serious crime. In addition, refugees must successfully complete an "integration" program (described below) to receive permanent residence permits.

The amendments to the Aliens Act included modifications to the rules for expelling aliens. Foreigners, including recognized refugees, may be expelled after serving a prison sentence of four or more years. The act expanded the list of crimes for which an alien could face expulsion.

The legislation also instituted so-called "bread and water" methods to induce asylum seekers to cooperate with the Danish authorities to establish travel route and identity. Asylum seekers who refuse to assist the authorities may be deprived of their monthly allowance and receive only paper bags of food. The authorities may require "uncooperative" asylum seekers to report to the police at regular intervals during the asylum procedure. Rejected asylum seekers who fail to leave Denmark are similarly sanctioned. During the first five months that this legislation was in effect, only seven asylum seekers became more cooperative after a period of "bread and water."

In conjunction with amendments to the Aliens Act, Denmark passed its first Integration Act, which turned over responsibility to the local municipalities. Significantly smaller as a result of this change, the DRC will focus more on international projects and resettlement activities.

Municipalities now receive refugees according to a quota system. In cooperation with individual refugees, the authorities devise integration programs comprised of Danish culture, language classes, and vocational training.

Financial assistance to refugees during the integration period is limited to 80 percent of equivalent social benefits given to Danish citizens. While this provision provoked tense exchanges between the Danish government and UNHCR, both parties ultimately agreed to wait for a year to assess whether the act is contrary to Article 23 of the Geneva Convention.

Restrictive Measures

Under Danish law, the authorities may refuse to admit asylum seekers arriving at the border without valid travel documents if they come from a "safe" third country. The authorities may detain them at the border and, on the advice of the Immigration Service, return them to the country through which they traveled to Denmark. Asylum seekers may appeal such decisions to the Ministry of Interior, but appeals do not suspend deportation.

On September 1, 1997, Denmark began implementing the Dublin Convention, an EU agreement that establishes the member state responsible for adjudicating an asylum request. Generally, Dublin holds that the EU country that permits entry, or the first EU country of arrival in the event of illegal entry, is responsible for examining the asylum request.

In 1998, Denmark requested 2,152 applications for asylum be transferred to other Dublin countries, of which 1,630, or 76 percent, were accepted. In 296 cases, the other Dublin country rejected Denmark's request for transfer.

Denmark received 329 requests for resubmission into Denmark from other Dublin signatories. Of these, Denmark accepted 172, or 52 percent. Denmark rejected 147 requests, or 45 percent.

In a nationwide referendum in May, Danes voted to endorse the Amsterdam Treaty, which would further harmonize asylum policy within the European Union.

Readmission Agreements

Denmark entered into a readmission agreement with Sri Lanka, which took effect on August 18, 1998. Romania and Denmark signed a readmission agreement, scheduled to enter into force in 1999.

In March 1998, Denmark also concluded a bilateral agreement with Germany to simplify the procedure for returning illegal immigrants and asylum seekers under the Dublin Convention. Sweden and Denmark have also signed a similar agreement.


Throughout the 1990s, Somalis have constituted one of the largest groups of asylum seekers and refugees in Denmark. Some 12,000 Somalis currently reside in Denmark. In 1998, 617 Somalis applied for asylum, a 50 percent decrease from the 1997 figure of 1,233 applicants.

The Danish Immigration Service has tended to look favorably upon Somali applicants, granting some form of protection, usually de facto refugee status, to about 90 percent in the first instance. Convention refugee recognition rates for Somalis remain much lower, about one percent. In 1998, Denmark granted asylum to 17 Somalis, while 840 received de facto refugee status.

During the campaign leading up to parliamentary elections in March, the extreme right Danish People's Party attacked Somali refugees in a series of newspaper articles, alleging widespread welfare fraud. The party made a strong showing in the elections, winning 13 seats in the parliament.

In the wake of the elections, representatives of the Somali community in Denmark called upon UNHCR to find them a safer country of asylum, claiming Danish ill-treatment. In 1997, 300 Somalis with permanent residence permits left Denmark for other asylum states, asserting widespread discrimination and racist violence. Such departures appeared to be an increasing trend throughout 1998.

The Danish authorities began deporting rejected Somali asylum seekers in May 1998 after reaching an agreement with the leaders of Somaliland. Denmark promised nearly 50 million Danish Crowns in development assistance in exchange for the readmission of rejected asylum seekers. Despite the agreement, the Danish authorities only managed to deport six Somalis before Somaliland announced that it would no longer accept rejected asylum seekers.

Although Denmark has developed a voluntary repatriation program for Somalis similar to that in place for Bosnians, only 14 Somalis took advantage of the program and voluntarily repatriated in 1998.

Yugoslavs/Former Yugoslavs In March, Denmark suspended review of Kosovo Albanians' asylum applications following a UNHCR appeal to stop their forced repatriation. Examination of such cases resumed in August 1998, after the Danish authorities received UNHCR's position paper on Kosovo Albanian asylum seekers. Some 288 Kosovo Albanians sought asylum in Denmark during 1998. Denmark granted 367 Yugoslav citizens, including Kosovo Albanians, some form of protection.

In May, Denmark imposed a visa requirement on Croatian citizens to prevent an influx of Croatian Serb asylum seekers from Eastern Slavonia. In prior weeks, the number of Croatian Serb asylum seekers in Denmark significantly increased, from 54 in 1997 to 202 in the first five months of 1998 alone. Some 2,000 Croatian Serb asylum seekers arrived in Norway during the first five months of 1998, sparking fears in Denmark that a similar flow of asylum seekers would soon arrive there.

Denmark hosted approximately 18,500 Bosnians at the end of 1998, the majority of whom have been granted some form of permanent protection pursuant to the Aliens Act. In 1998, 173 Bosnians received temporary protection, while 62 were granted other forms of protection, including 11 persons granted Convention refugee status. Denmark also granted 18 Serbs temporary protection in 1998.

Denmark offers financial and logistical assistance to repatriating Bosnians. Nevertheless, only 165 Bosnians voluntarily repatriated from Denmark in 1998, representing a decrease of 45 percent from the 317 who returned to Bosnia in 1997.

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