Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 January 2018, 09:04 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Denmark

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2000
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2000 - Denmark , 1 June 2000, available at: [accessed 23 January 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 1999, Denmark hosted about 8,500 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included, 1,136 persons granted refugee status, 2,738 issued de facto and humanitarian protection status, about 1,700 with temporary protection, 518 resettled "quota" refugees, about 40 rejected Yugoslav asylum seekers still in need of protection, and about 2,370 asylum applicants awaiting a decision on pending claims.

During the year, 6,467 asylum seekers filed applications in Denmark, 13 percent more than the 5,702 who submitted applications in 1998. The largest groups of asylum seekers arrived from Iraq (1,803), Slovakia (967), Yugoslavia (868), and Afghanistan (534).

Of the 5,579 first-instance cases decided in 1999, the Danish Immigration Services (DIS) granted 963 applicants asylum, an approval rate of 17 percent. About 42 percent, (2,360 persons) received de facto refugee status, which allows applicants who do not meet the UN Refugee Convention criteria, but who "ought not be required to return" to their country of origin to stay in Denmark temporarily. DIS rejected 2,256 applicants during the year.

At the appeals stage, 173 persons received Convention refugee status, representing 10 percent of the 1,675 second-instance decisions made in 1999. Denmark granted 258 persons de facto refugee status in the second instance. The Refugee Appeals Board upheld the denials of 1,244 applicants, 74 percent of all the Board's decisions during the year.

In 1999, the Immigration Service looked most favorably upon applicants from Yugoslavia, granting Convention refugee status to 347 persons, an approval rate of 81 percent. Stateless Palestinians had a 71 percent refugee recognition rate.

Denmark annually resettles quota refugees selected by UNHCR. In 1999, Denmark accepted 518 persons for resettlement. Their principal countries of origin were Afghanistan (156) and Iraq (129), together accounting for 55 percent of all resettled refugees during the year.

Denmark may extend temporary protection to specific refugee groups by parliamentary decree. Danish authorities repeatedly conferred temporary protection status on individuals from the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. In April 1999, the parliament passed legislation granting Kosovo Albanians temporary protection.

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 483 asylum applications from abroad during the year.

The Danish Immigration Service makes first-instance decisions on asylum applications. DIS may grant Convention refugee status, or de facto refugee status.

Applicants rejected in the first instance may appeal the decision to the Refugee Appeals Board, an independent body made up of representatives of the government, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), and the Danish Bar and Law Society. Those rejected in the appeals process may apply to the Ministry of Interior for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds, usually within ten days of the Appeals Board's decision.

The Immigration Service may exercise a special procedure for applications deemed "manifestly unfounded." The authorities pass such applications to the Danish Refugee Council. 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 residence permits based on humanitarian grounds. Since 1995, however, Danish law has permitted the authorities to detain asylum seekers whose applications are, or are expected to be, placed in the manifestly unfounded procedure. According to 1999 press reports, the number of asylum seekers detained on such grounds has increased significantly in recent years.

Denmark maintains a list of "safe countries of origin" to identify manifestly unfounded claims. 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 1999, the Immigration Service rejected the applications of 1,229 asylum seekers as manifestly unfounded. The DRC vetoed 12 percent of the manifestly unfounded rulings, thus granting these applicants the right to appeal their rejections.

Asylum Amendments

Following contentious March 1998 elections – in which asylum and refugee issues figured prominently – the Danish Parliament amended the Aliens Act, and passed an Integration Act. In 1999, the refugee and asylum debate continued as Denmark implemented the Integration Act and approved a new repatriation law.

An amendment of the Aliens Act came into force on July 3, 1998. As a result, asylum seekers must substantiate an individual fear of persecution to be granted de facto refugee status. The law also restricts family reunification and changes the requirements for refugees and immigrants to acquire permanent residence permits. The amendment also modifies the rules for expelling aliens, to include an expanded list of crimes for which an alien may be expelled.

The legislation instituted so-called "bread and water" methods to induce asylum seekers to cooperate with the Danish authorities to establish their travel routes and identities. Asylum seekers who refuse to cooperate with the authorities may be deprived of their monthly allowance and receive only paper bags of food every two weeks. 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 may be similarly sanctioned. In 1999, the Danish Center for Human Rights criticized the "bread and water" sanctions, arguing that a strict interpretation of the provision may violate Danish law.

On January 1, 1999, Denmark began implementing the Integration Act, which turned over responsibility for integration programs from the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to the local municipalities. Municipalities now receive refugees according to a quota system, intended to distribute refugees more evenly throughout Denmark. Together with individual refugees, the local authorities devise integration programs comprised of Danish culture courses, language classes, and vocational training.

Under the initial version of the Integration Act, Denmark limited financial assistance to refugees during the integration period to 80 percent of the equivalent social benefits given to Danish citizens. This provision provoked tense exchanges between the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Danish government, because it appeared to violate Article 32 of the Refugee Convention, which obligates contracting states to accord recognized refugees the same public assistance as citizens. In November, Denmark ultimately acquiesced, and increased the social benefits afforded refugees to equal those of Danish citizens.

In June, the Danish parliament passed a law regulating voluntary repatriation for aliens, which entered into force on January 1, 2000. The new legislation grants varying amounts of repatriation assistance to recognized refugees, aliens with humanitarian residence permits, and immigrants. In conjunction with the International Organization for Migration, the DRC arranges travel routes and necessary travel documents. The DRC also counsels prospective returnees and helps them to negotiate repatriation grants with their local municipalities. In certain cases, one family member may return to the home country first, while the remaining family may be granted housing assistance for up to one year or until they repatriate.

Returnees may apply for reintegration allowances if they meet the following criteria: they cannot cover their own expenses; they had a permanent residence permit in Denmark; they had a residence permit for a minimum of five years and are over 65 years of age or had been granted a disability pension regardless of age. Repatriating refugees have up to one year to return to Denmark, unlike immigrants, who are not permitted to return.

Restrictive Measures

Under Danish law, the authorities may refuse to admit asylum seekers who arrive at the borders without valid travel documents if they come from a "safe third country." Denmark does not employ an official list of safe third countries, although in practice, the authorities consider the United States, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Poland, and to some extent, Hungary as such.

European Union (EU) countries fall under the framework of the Dublin Convention (see chart). The authorities may detain asylum seekers at the border and, on the advice of the Immigration Service, return them to such countries. Asylum seekers may appeal such decisions, but appeals do not suspend deportation.

In a November ruling related to the Dublin Convention, a British judge decided that the United Kingdom should not return an Algerian asylum seeker to Denmark, even though he had already undergone adjudication there. His lawyers argued that Denmark might forcibly repatriate him to Algeria, where he faced possible torture.

In 1999, Denmark imposed a temporary visa requirement on Slovak citizens following the arrival of a record number of Roma asylum seekers from Slovakia. A total of 967 Slovak citizens submitted asylum claims during the year, compared with the 61 applications lodged in 1998. None was granted any form of protection in the normal procedure; only five received asylum in the appeals stage.

In March 1999, a delegation from the Danish Immigration Service and the DRC visited the Czech Republic and Slovakia to assess conditions for the Roma. Although the delegation did not find the Roma to be politically persecuted, they reported that Roma live in inferior social conditions compared to other Slovak citizens.

Kosovo Crisis

Nationals from the former Yugoslavia constitute one of the largest refugee populations in Denmark. During the year, Denmark experienced another influx, primarily Kosovo Albanians, following the NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in March.

As part of the humanitarian evacuation program (HEP), Denmark took in 2,823 Kosovo Albanians from refugee camps in Macedonia, granting them renewable six month temporary residence permits under special legislation passed by the parliament on April 23, 1999. Housed in reception centers, the Kosovo Albanians received social assistance, work permits, and permission for their children to attend school.

The government also extended this type of temporary protection to Kosovo Albanian asylum seekers arriving spontaneously in Denmark until July 1, 1999. Kosovars arriving after that date have had their applications processed in the normal asylum procedure.

Of the 868 Yugoslav citizens who applied for asylum in 1999, 683 (79 percent) arrived from Kosovo. Denmark granted some form of protection to 484 Yugoslav citizens.

Denmark provided financial and logistical assistance to repatriating Kosovo Albanians. Returnees received an allowance of 18,000 Danish Crowns ($2,500) per adult and 6,000 Danish Crowns ($800) per child, and up to $1,400 for the transport of business equipment. In addition, the Danish authorities covered all travel expenses. In 1999, 1,262 Kosovars (the majority of whom were HEP evacuees) repatriated through organized return programs. In 1999, the Danish authorities also organized one two week exploratory visit to Kosovo for eight refugee community leaders.

Persons leaving on the Kosovo assisted return programs could opt to return to Denmark within three months of departure, provided they covered their own travel expenses. By year's end, 170 persons had filed applications to "regret" their repatriation and return to Denmark.


Denmark hosted approximately 18,500 Bosnians at the end of 1999, the majority granted some form of permanent protection under the Aliens Act. During the year, 101 Bosnians received temporary protection, and 33 were granted other forms of protection, including 5 persons granted Convention refugee status.

Denmark offers financial and logistical assistance to repatriating Bosnians. Nevertheless, only 73 Bosnians repatriated with assistance from Denmark in 1999, representing a decrease of 56 percent from the 165 who returned to Bosnia in 1998.

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