The dire consequences of Denmark’s ‘paradigm shift’ on refugees – POLITICO


Marie Juul Petersen and Nikolas Feith Tan are senior researchers at the Danish Institute for Human Rights. They are the authors of the report “You can never feel safe”, which examines the Danish practice of revoking asylum.

“It was like I built a house, and they tore it down in a minute.”

This is how Maryam, a young Syrian woman, described the day the Danish immigration service informed her that her residence permit had been revoked — and Maryam is not alone.

Denmark’s decision to end protection for Syrian refugees dates back to 2015, when Parliament introduced a new temporary protection status, which does not exist in other European countries and which creates a particularly “thin” form of protection. for asylum seekers fleeing widespread violence, mainly from Syria. This means that as soon as the human rights conditions in their country of origin improve slightly, protection can be withdrawn, even if the situation remains “serious, fragile and unpredictable”.

In 2019, parliament then passed new amendments that made all refugee protection temporary. And under this new approach, unless it violates Denmark’s international obligations, immigration authorities are required to terminate refugee protection.

These legislative changes — referred to in Denmark as paradigmskift (paradigm shift) — have fundamentally changed Danish refugee policy, shifting it from permanent protection and integration to temporary protection and returning people to their homes as soon as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the consequences both for individual refugees and for the European Union have been immense.

The right to family life

Since 2019, more than 1,000 refugees from Damascus and Rif Damascus province have had their need for protection reassessed – and, so far, around 100 have had it revoked. We expect that refugees from other parts of Syria, as well as other countries, will have their residence permit reassessed in the same way in the near future.

“My brother can stay. But how can we leave it? And how can he stay here alone, knowing that his family is back in Syria? Laila, 23, asked us.

Her brother, who just turned 18, had been granted asylum because he risks being drafted for military service. Meanwhile, Laila and the rest of her family have had their permits revoked and now have to leave Denmark

It goes without saying that the fear of seeing their families torn apart is now a common and legitimate concern among Syrian refugees – and it exists despite the fact that this practice risks violating Denmark’s obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. ‘male ; specifically, the right to private and family life under Article 8.

Danish authorities consider Damascus safe for return | Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images

On the one hand, the current revocation procedures do not ensure an overall assessment of a family’s connection or attachment to Denmark during the appeal phase – which is a prerequisite for a correct assessment under the law. human rights. Instead, a refugee board handles the case of the refugee, while an immigration appeal board handles the cases of family members separately.

Moreover, by applying a narrow definition of what constitutes “family life” — ignoring the fact that elderly parents may be dependent on their adult children or young adults may have close family relationships with their parents — the Danish authorities do not recognize that some may have a family life protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.

Complicated and lengthy procedure

Meanwhile, the process that Syrian refugees go through when authorities reassess their residence permits is both complex and lengthy, with processing times often lasting well over a year, to the detriment of the refugees concerned.

For example, although her residence permit was revoked by the Danish Immigration Service and the revocation was later upheld by the Refugee Appeals Board, Maryam still managed to have her case reopened. And after a nearly two-year process, she finally got permission to stay in Denmark.

However, Maryam still suffers from depression and has trouble sleeping at night. “So yeah, I got through it, but there are still things that are holding me back,” she said.

As for others, the process can be so cumbersome that they give up even before receiving a final decision from the authorities. Hundreds of Syrian refugees have left Denmark simply to seek asylum in other EU countries.

Aida and her family left as soon as they received the decision from the immigration service, without waiting for the decision of the appeals committee. “We thought it would be a waste of time. If the authorities didn’t believe us the first time, why would they believe us the second time? ” she said.

But when his family applied for asylum in another EU country, they were rejected and sent back to Denmark, where they will now have to start over in the asylum system there.

Undermining EU solidarity

Leaving aside the immense consequences that this paradigm shift has had for individual refugees – as well as the risk that Denmark will violate its international human rights obligations – it is important to note that the emphasis the country on the revocation of residence permits for refugees is also unique among EU countries. And Danish asylum rules offer a significantly lower level of protection than other EU member countries.

As such, the practice risks undermining EU solidarity on asylum; while raising questions of efficiency.

Of the approximately 100 Syrians who have received final dismissal orders, so far none have been forcibly returned to Syria, as the Danish government has no diplomatic relations with the country’s Assad government.

This means that apart from the fact that these forced returns are not being carried out, Denmark’s approach is also causing the displacement of hundreds of former Syrian refugees to other countries in the bloc. This essentially shifts responsibility from Denmark to its EU neighbours, where they cannot be forced to return home.

The good news is that as Denmark’s new trilateral government takes hold, there are early signs that it may try to find exceptions to the paradigm shift, as the new government agreement states that if a Syrian refugee studies in an area where there is a shortage in the Danish economy, they will be able to keep their residence permit. However, Denmark still faces a pressing political question: will this aggressive practice of dismissal continue?


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