Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2017, 09:48 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Denmark

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Denmark , 20 June 2001, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
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 2000, Denmark hosted about 10,300 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 1,332 persons granted refugee status under the UN Refugee Convention, 2,530 issued de facto refugee status, 31 granted permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, 379 granted residence permits for other "exceptional reasons," some 345 with temporary protection, 464 resettled "quota" refugees, and about 5,200 asylum applicants awaiting a decision on pending claims.

During the year, 10,077 asylum seekers filed applications in Denmark, an increase of 35 percent over 1999. The figure does not include asylum applications lodged abroad, asylum seekers rejected on safe country grounds, or applications rejected based on the Dublin Convention (see box, p. 194). The largest groups of asylum seekers arrived from Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, the former Soviet republics, and Somalia.

Of the 7,034 first-instance cases decided in 2000, the Danish Immigration Services (DIS) granted asylum to 1,207 applicants, an approval rate of 17 percent. About 2,250 persons (32 percent) 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 remain in Denmark. The DIS rejected 3,573 applications during the year.

At the appeals stage, 2,034 cases were decided, with 125 persons (6 percent) receiving Convention refugee status and 276 (14 percent) receiving de facto status. The Refugee Appeals Board upheld the denials of 1,633 applicants.

Of the total 9,068 asylum decisions at both the first-instance and appeals level, 1,332 persons (nearly 15 percent) were recognized under the UN Refugee Convention and another 2,530 (28 percent) were granted de facto status. The total number of rejections was 5,206.

Denmark may also grant residence permits based on "humantarian grounds" or for other "exceptional reasons." The former has often applied to families with young children from areas of armed conflict or other harsh survival conditions, while the latter, according to UNHCR, has applied to "unaccompanied minors or to persons whose claims have otherwise been rejected but who cannot be deported for objective reasons, such as the situation in their countries of origin." In 2000, Denmark granted residence to 31 persons on humanitarian grounds and to 379 persons for other exceptional reasons.

Denmark annually resettles "quota" refugees selected by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Of a resettlement quota of 500 persons, Denmark admitted 464 during the year. Of those, 229 were from Afghanistan, 58 from Iran, 36 from Burma, and 29 from Sudan.

The Aliens Act, as amended, allows the granting of temporary protection to persons who have been rejected under the status determination procedure but who are unable to return to their country of origin because of a prevailing conflict situation. During the year, 345 persons, mostly from the former Yugoslavia, were granted temporary protection.

Asylum Procedure

The Danish asylum procedure is governed by the Aliens Act of 1983, as amended. An asylum seeker may apply in Denmark or with a Danish embassy/consulate abroad (a process separate from the "quota" refugee system). The vast majority of asylum seekers apply upon arrival.

Asylum seekers not rejected at the border are taken to the registration center at Sandholm, about 16 miles (25 km) north of Copenhagen, which is run by the Danish Red Cross. Asylum seekers who can establish their identity and travel routes are transferred to one of the "accommodation centers" dispersed throughout the country. The asylum seekers live at the centers while their claims are being processed (unless they are given permission to live with family or friends). They are not permitted to work during this time.

The DIS 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 situation of a person granted permission to stay on humanitarian grounds is reviewed periodically during the first two years, after which he or she is entitled to a temporary residence permit, to be reviewed annually. After three years, a permanent residence permit may be granted.

The DIS may exercise an accelerated 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. During 2000, the DIS considered 780 applications to be manifestly unfounded.

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.

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.

Amendments to the Aliens Act in 1998 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 may be deprived of their monthly allowance and only receive paper bags of food every two weeks. The authorities may require such 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. Human rights groups have criticized the "bread and water" sanctions, arguing that a strict interpretation of the provision may violate Danish law.

In October, press reports said Danish reception centers for arriving asylum seekers were running out of space. Families were reportedly being split, and some had to stay in gymnasiums. The shortage apparently resulted from the cancellation of agreements by several municipalities that had made land available for housing asylum seekers.

Late in the year, the Socialist People's Party said it would propose legislation in early 2001 to establish a body to review decisions of the Refugee Appeals Board. The announcement followed a televised program charging that Danish authorities had made serious mistakes in handling asylum claims – including sending torture victims back to their countries of persecution.

Aliens Act Amendments

In June, amendments to the Aliens Act entered into force. Enacted in an effort to reduce the incidents of forced marriages, the amendments abolished the right of family reunification for spouses below the age of 25 – unless a comprehensive individual assessment proves that the marriage was based on the applicant's free will. In December, for the first time, the DIS rejected an application for reunion with a spouse younger than 25 because the DIS believed the couple had not married voluntarily. UNHCR said the goal of the provision was laudable but that its implementation would be "of key importance."

The amendments also require a financial means test for persons wishing to have family members join them. While the language accompanying the provision indicates that refugees are exempt, UNHCR recommended including the exemption in the law.

Integration and Voluntary Repatriation

In late 1999, Denmark made the social benefits provided to refugees equal to those of Danish citizens. The 1999 integration plan also authorized the DIS to assign individual refugees to reside in particular municipalities during a three-year integration program. Municipalities receive refugees according to a quota system intended to distribute refugees more evenly through out Denmark. Along with the quota, the integration plan stipulates that local conditions in the municipality and personal circumstances of the refugee must be taken into consideration. Together with individual refugees, local authorities devise integration programs comprised of Danish culture courses, language classes, and vocational training.

The issuance of permanent residence permits after three years is conditioned on satisfactory performance in the integration program, including daily language lessons and job practice.

In 2000, the Board of Ethnic Equality published a report on the implementation of the new integration plan, revealing a number of flaws. According to UNHCR, few opportunities exist for having a refugee's placement changed, however unreasonable the placement might have been.

A law regulating voluntary repatriation enacted in June 1999 entered into force on January 1, 2000. The new legislation grants varying amounts of repatriation assistance to recognized refugees, persons 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 certain criteria. Refugees who repatriate to their home countries have up to one year to return to Denmark.

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." Although Denmark employs an official list of safe countries of origin (see above), it does not maintain an official list of safe third countries. 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 box, p. 198). The authorities may detain asylum seekers at the border and, on the advice of the DIS, return them to such countries. Asylum seekers may appeal such decisions, but appeals do not suspend deportation.

During 2000, refugees continued to be affected by Denmark's – and much of Europe's – growing restrictionism toward immigration. The right-wing Danish People's Party, whose leaders said they "don't believe in Denmark turning into a multi-ethnic society," drew as much as 20 percent support in polls during the year.

In November, the refugee committee of the ruling Social Democrat party said it intended to examine the UN Refugee Convention and make proposals to modify the text along restrictive lines. Reacting to this announcement, the leader of the restrictionist Danish People's Party said she was glad the Social Democrats had apparently learned from her party.

Yugoslavs and Former Yugoslavs

Nationals from the former Yugoslavia constitute one of the largest refugee populations in Denmark. Under 1992 legislation, certain persons from the former Yugoslavia who found themselves in a "mass flight situation" were granted temporary residence in Denmark. In 1995, the Aliens Act was amended to provide additional temporary protection to persons from the former Yugoslavia who were originally covered under the 1992 law.

In 1999, Denmark experienced another influx from the Balkans, primarily of Kosovo Albanians following the NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia in March of that year.

As part of the humanitarian evacuation program (HEP), Denmark took in 2,823 Kosovo Albanians (out of 3,000 places that were offered) from refugee camps in Macedonia, granting them renewable six-month temporary residence permits under special legislation (known as the "Kosovo Act") enacted in April 1999. Denmark suspended the processing of asylum applications from Kosovar HEP beneficiaries for a maximum of two years.

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 had their applications processed in the normal asylum procedure.

In May 2000, the Danish Parliament revoked the Kosovo Act. After June 3, all new applications for asylum from Kosovars were treated according to the Aliens Act. The authorities sent out notices telling the Kosovars how to apply for asylum. Vulnerable groups, such as female-headed households with no relatives in Kosovo, separated children, unaccompanied elderly, and handicapped or ill people, could also apply for permission to stay on humanitarian grounds. The application deadline was June 15.

Subsequent changes to the Aliens Act have allowed authorities to grant temporary residence permits to Kosovars who are refused Convention refugee status or de facto status but who are still in need of protection and who cannot be returned to Kosovo because of their individual circumstances. In practice, the DIS has followed UNHCR's guidance on groups of Kosovars still in need of protection.

In 2000, the DIS granted asylum to 31 persons who were admitted under the HEP and denied asylum to 303. Of the spontaneous arrivals from Kosovo, 67 were granted asylum and 430 were refused. The Appeals Board granted asylum to 23 persons admitted under the HEP.

By the end of the year, the DIS had granted temporary protection to 135 Kosovars admitted under the HEP and to 31 spontaneous asylum seekers, after rejection of their asylum claims. The Ministry of Interior granted temporary protection to an additional 28 Kosovars.

In 1999 and 2000, Denmark provided financial and logistical assistance to repatriating Kosovo Albanians. Returnees received an allowance equal to $2,100 (18,000 Danish Crowns) per adult and $700 (6,000 Danish Crowns) per child, and $1,400 (12,000 Danish Crowns) for the transport of business equipment. In addition, the Danish authorities covered all travel expenses.

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.

In early 2000, the Danish Appeals Board upheld the denial of asylum to two ethnic Serbs from eastern Slavonia. The applicants had requested a reversal in light of the report of a Danish fact-finding mission to eastern Slavonia conducted in September 1999. The report said that while the security situation had generally improved since 1998, there were reports of insufficient implementation of the amnesty law in the region.

At least 18,000 Bosnians resided Denmark at the end of 2000, the majority granted some form of permanent protection under the Aliens Act. Denmark offers financial and logistical assistance to repatriating Bosnians. In 2000, 123 Bosnians repatriated from Denmark, compared to 73 who returned to Bosnia in 1999.

Rwandan Asylum Seekers

In early 2000, Danish authorities decided to tighten up the procedure for asylum seekers arriving in Denmark from Rwanda by making inquiries with the UN war crimes tribunal in Tanzania. They also said they would verify the status of the more than 100 Rwandan refugees already granted residence permits in Denmark, as well as any quota refugees to be admitted. The decision was a result of the tribunal's request that Denmark extradite a former captain in the Rwandan army. The captain was brought before the tribunal in late November.

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