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.

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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. 


How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.