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Danish parliament rejects campaign to soften residence bill

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Danish parliament rejects campaign to soften residence bill
People queue outside the Danish parliament at Christiansborg on 'Citizen Day', April 23rd 2017. Photo: Michael Bothager/Scanpix
22:21 CEST+02:00
Denmark’s political parties rejected Thursday an amendment to a bill further tightening rules on permanent residency, despite a prolonged campaign by lobbyists.

With the unpopular bill L154 now passed, waiting times for foreigners in Denmark to apply for permanent residency now increase to eight years.

A previous extension to the minimum period before becoming eligible for residency from five to six years was passed as recently as 2016, meaning Denmark was already one of the strictest countries in Europe on the issue.

The new law also changes to require residency hopefuls work 3.5 out of four years prior to application for residency – a tightening on the previous requirement of 2.5 out of the last three years.

Danish legislative process requires all new bills to be read three times in parliament before they can be passed.

Previous amendments, including provisions for training and education amongst newcomers; and a key amendment requesting that the eight-year requirement only be applied to residence applicants who arrive after the new law comes into effect, were rejected at Tuesday’s second hearing.

A final amendment, asking for bill L154 to apply only to those who entered Denmark after January 1st 2016, was put forward by four of Denmark’s five opposition parties for the final hearing.

But Thursday’s vote saw the Social Democrats, the largest opposition party and the only one not to put forth the final amendment, vote against the amendment as it had done at the previous hearing.

This means the bill will now be passed in its original form.

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Naqeeb Khan, executive member of lobby group Danish Green Card Association, which campaigned against the bill from its inception in August 2016, told The Local that he was disappointed in the lack of support for the amendments.

“Firstly, we are extremely thankful to Josephine Fock of the Alternative party, the Social Liberal [Radikale Venstre] Sofie Carsten Nielsen, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen of the Red-Green Alliance [Enhedslisten] and Holger K. Nielsen from the Socialist People’s Party for proposing the amendments.

“We are extremely disappointed with the Social Democrats, who we feel have betrayed the red block and the whole immigrant community. They cheer for the [US] Democrats who fight for undocumented immigrants while ignoring the existing legal highly qualified immigrants in Denmark,” Khan said.

Khan has previously spoken out against the bill, criticising it for disrupting lives and deterring valuable skilled workers from entering the Danish job market.

Last month, hundreds of expats gathered outside Copenhagen's parliament to demonstrate against the proposed curbs.

“We have democratically and peacefully protested against this bill for seven months. We met MPs, demonstrated in front of parliament, wrote articles, conducted seminars around Denmark and over 40 organisations wrote to parliament but none of our legal, justifiable and human rights were protected. We actually did this for Denmark because we believe that expats are part of Denmark's future,” he added.

The Local has contacted the Social Democrats for comment.

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