Denmark: amendments to the Aliens Act risk violating international legal standards

Strasbourg 15/01/2016
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Denmark: amendments to the Aliens Act risk violating international legal standards

“Recent restrictive changes to asylum and immigration law in Denmark raise serious concerns of conformity with human rights standards. The government should reconsider them and ensure that law and practice fully comply with Denmark’s obligation to uphold refugee protection standards” said today Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, releasing a letter addressed to Ms Inger STØJBERG, Minister for Immigration, Integration and Housing.

The Commissioner refers in particular to amendments to the Aliens Act introduced last November, which increase the possibilities of detaining asylum-seekers under “special circumstances” and weaken the judicial review of detention. “I am concerned that the possibility of making increased use of detention in specific circumstances, combined with the elimination of important legal safeguards regarding detention, could lead to detention being used disproportionately and indiscriminately in respect of asylum-seekers, in contradiction with Article 5 of the ECHR which protects the right to liberty.”

He also expresses concerns regarding a new package of amendments currently being discussed by the Danish Parliament, which aim at limiting access for beneficiaries of international protection to family reunification. “The proposal to postpone the right to family reunification to three years for beneficiaries of temporary subsidiary protection  raises issues of compatibility with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects the right to respect for one's family life and could also infringe on the rights of children to live within their family environment, as prescribed by the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child.” He also deplores proposals aimed at tightening criteria to obtain a permanent residence permit and significantly diminishing the duration of residence permits, notably for those granted international protection. “All these proposals run counter to the aim of promoting a speedy and effective integration of these persons in Denmark.”

Lastly, the Commissioner strongly criticises the proposal to seize assets of asylum-seekers arriving in Denmark, in order to cover their subsistence needs. “Such a measure could amount to an infringement of the human dignity of the persons concerned. It could also lead to violations of the right to property enshrined in Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR.”