Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2018, 07:53 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Denmark

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Denmark , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 24 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 2001, Denmark hosted about 12,200 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included 2,020 persons granted refugee status under the UN Refugee Convention, 3,116 issued de facto refugee status, 83 granted permission to stay on humanitarian grounds, 100 granted residence permits for other "exceptional reasons," 338 with temporary protection, 531 resettled "quota" refugees, and almost 6,000 asylum applicants awaiting a decision on pending claims.

During the year, 8,385 asylum seekers filed applications in Denmark, a decrease of 17 percent from 2000. 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. 190). The largest groups of asylum seekers arrived from Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, and Somalia.

Denmark admitted 531 "quota" refugees selected by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for resettlement during the year.

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.

The Danish Immigration Services (DIS) makes first-instance decisions on asylum applications, and may grant Convention refugee status or de facto refugee status. Of the 8,739 first-instance cases decided in 2001, the DIS granted asylum to 1,857 applicants, a 21 percent approval rate. About 2,740 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 remain in Denmark. The DIS rejected 4,142 applications during the year.

Denmark also grants residence permits based on "humanitarian grounds" or for other "exceptional reasons." The former category has often applied to families with young children from areas of armed conflict or other harsh survival situations, 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 2001, Denmark granted residence to 83 persons on humanitarian grounds and to 100 persons for other exceptional reasons.

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 the 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.

At the appeals stage, 2,601 cases were decided in 2001, with 163 persons (6 percent) receiving Convention refugee status and 376 receiving de facto status. The Refugee Appeals Board upheld the denials of 2,062 applicants.

Of the total 11,340 asylum decisions in 2001 at both the first-instance and appeals level, 2,020 persons (nearly 18 percent) were recognized under the UN Refugee Convention and another 3,116 (27 percent) were granted de facto status.

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, 338 persons were granted temporary protection.

Accelerated Procedures and Restrictive Measures

The DIS may employ 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 the applicant has the right to appeal.

Individuals whose cases are rejected as manifestly unfounded may apply to the Interior Ministry 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, Benin, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Ghana, Hungary, Niger, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, and Tanzania. Claims submitted by persons from these countries are forwarded directly to the DRC.

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 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 safe third countries.

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

During 2001, asylum seekers continued to be affected by Denmark's – and much of Europe's – growing restrictionism toward immigration. The right-wing Danish People's Party became Denmark's third-largest party during the year, pushing a stringent anti-immigrant position that resonated throughout Denmark's political system.

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.

Changing Attitudes Towards Asylum

In November 2001, Danish elections took an increasing anti-immigrant tone, resulting in a strengthened anti-foreigner faction in the Danish Parliament. Fueled by increasingly negative attitudes towards foreigners, the elections transformed what was once one of Europe's most refugee-friendly countries into an increasingly hostile environment for asylum seekers.

By the end of 2001, the Danish Parliament was drafting some of the toughest asylum regulations in Europe. The new legislation, awaiting approval in 2002, is expected to reduce drastically the number of asylum seekers that will be permitted to stay in Denmark.

The new legislation proposes limiting refugee status only to those who meet the UN Refugee Convention standard and eliminating de facto refugee status. The legislation also would reduce the number of locations at which applicants can seek asylum, eliminating the option to apply for asylum through Danish embassies abroad. The legislation also calls for the government to increase the numbers of rejected asylum claims on procedural grounds.

Welfare benefits for refugees would be drastically limited under the new law, and all foreigners who have not been issued a permanent residence permit and cannot support themselves be deported. In cases of family reunification, the legislation would make it possible to set conditions of financial security upon the family member in Denmark.

According to a poll commissioned by Jyllands-Posten, Denmark's largest daily newspaper, a majority of the people polled believed the proposed plan was appropriate as presented. The poll also showed that a majority of those polled agreed with extending the amount of time required to grant a foreigner permanent residence status.

UNHCR expressed concern over the new legislation, cautioning that that it would limit the possibility of seeking asylum in Denmark. Of particular concern to UNHCR was the future of EU directives on asylum, a discussion that will be led by Copenhagen when it assumes the EU presidency during the second half of 2002.

Accommodation, Integration, and Repatriation

Asylum seekers not rejected at the border are taken to a registration center at Sandholm, about 16 miles (25 km) north of Copenhagen, a facility 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 processed (unless they receive permission to live with family or friends). They are not permitted to work during this time.

Denmark provides social benefits to recognized refugees equal to those of Danish citizens. Under a 1999 integration plan, the DIS requires 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 throughout 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.

Denmark 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.

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