Thousands of foreign-based Danes sign protest against spouse law

Over 10,000 foreign-based Danes have signed a petition against the government’s removal of a law making it easier for their spouses to move to Denmark.

Thousands of foreign-based Danes sign protest against spouse law
Photo: Iris/Scanpix

The so-called 26-year-rule, which exempted the partners of Danes holding citizenship for 26 years or more from certain immigration requirements, was abolished last year by a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling.

The rule discriminated against Danes who were born in the country or arrived at a young age, for example as refugees, but were not granted citizenship until later, ruled the court.

The suspension of the rule means that more mixed-nationality couples now become subject to the “attachment requirement” (tilknytningskravet), which states that a Danish-plus-non-EU-nationality couple may not be granted family reunification in Denmark if they are considered to have “a stronger attachment to a second country”.

Following the EHCR judgement, immigration minister Inger Støjberg suspended the 26-year rule, immediately subjecting all foreign-based Danes and their partners to the attachment condition.

Reports emerged recently of foreign partners who would previously have lived up to residence requirements being told to leave the country.

READ ALSO: 'Leave country by June 10th': Denmark to American wife of astrophysicist

The 26-year rule was lasted week formally scrapped as parliament approved a law change to remove it from legislation.

The petition against the removal of the rule was led by NGOs Marriage Without Borders and Danes Worldwide.

“I have spoken with several people in Brazil who are outraged that the connection requirement now affects everyone. What happens if the political instability in Brazil worsens and they feel they need to move home, but they can’t take their families with them?”, Anne Marie Dalgaard, general secretary of Danes Worldwide, told newspaper Politiken.

The formal removal of the 26-year-rule was accompanied by the approval of a new provision that makes it easier for Danes with higher incomes to move to the country with their foreign spouses, in comparison with lower earners.

Under the new rule, Danes offered positions with a salary of at least 408,000 kroner ($60,000) per annum or with qualifications in demand in Denmark are exempted from the attachment requirement.

But parliamentary legal advisors said that the new proposal could also result in unlawful discrimination.

Dalgaard said that thousands of Danes living in other countries who are self-employed, retired or students would be among those not taken into account by the new dispensation.

“People are angry, frustrated, and bitter that they have travelled and served Danish interests abroad and established strong bonds to foreign countries that have benefited Danish business. And this is the reward,” Dalgaard told Politiken.

Removing the 26-year rule from effect following the ECHR judgement last year may even have been illegal itself, with families rejected residence under family reunification rules due to a rule change not yet coded into the law, the Danish Institute for Human Rights director Jonas Christoffersen told Politiken.

But Christoffersen added that, by suspending the law in keeping with the ECHR ruling, the government had ensured equal treatment of its citizens on the issue.

Several couples have filed appeals with the Danish Immigration Appeals Board (Udlændingenævnet) during the year between the ECHR ruling and last week’s law change, reports Politiken.

The government and opposition Social Democrat party are reported to be working on more flexible rules over the issue, while the earnings-based exemption will stay in place until summer 2018, according to the newspaper. 


Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.


Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.