New Danish rules announced for family reunification of children

Denmark’s Ministry of Immigration and Integration has announced new rules regarding the family reunification of children, after controversial cases in which children were deported caused public outcry.

New Danish rules announced for family reunification of children
File photo: Asger Ladefoged/Ritzau Scanpix

Foreign residents of Denmark who want their children to move to the country to live with them must apply for this as soon as possible and no later than three months after being granted residency, the ministry announced.

Meanwhile, an existing demand for good “long-term integration prospects” for children applying for family reunification will be scrapped.

The government has agreed with the Danish People’s Party and Social Democrats over the proposed rule change and will now formulate a bill, according to a ministry press statement.

Rules on the area have seen heavy debate in recent months, particularly in relation to a case involving 13-year-old Atcharapan “Mint” Yaungyai, who in October last year left Denmark, where she lived with her mother and Danish stepfather and stepbrother.

Mint, who moved to Denmark in 2017 and attended school at seventh grade, the normal level for her age, was refused permission to remain in the country due to not fulfilling Immigration Board (Udlændingenævnet) requirements over integration. She was deported to Thailand, where she was accompanied by her mother.

The reason given by authorities for her deportation was that she was considered have lived in Thailand for too long to become integrated in Denmark. Several politicians spoke publicly to criticise the outcome of her case.

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The aim of the new rule is to stress the importance of early application, according to the ministry press statement.

“If a parent wishes to live and reside in Denmark with their child, they must bring their child here immediately,” immigration minister Inger Støjberg said in the statement.

“Children should not just be left in home countries for several years,” Støjberg also said, adding that this constituted a risk that “the child could, for example, end up at Quran school”.

No elaboration was given in the statement as to why Islamic schools were cited, but Støjberg has previously backed assessment of children’s ability to adapt to Danish society.

Such a measure can prevent parents choosing to leave them in home countries for years with the aim of preventing them from becoming 'too Danish', according to the minister.

Current rules in the area have resulted in a number of cases such as that of Mint, who attended state school in Denmark and speaks fluent Danish.

The new rules will apply to cases in which one parent lives in Denmark while the other remains in the home country or a third country.

The rule change will not affect Mint’s case and will only apply to future cases, Støjberg has previously confirmed.


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Why Copenhagen has taken steps to increase diversity in its classrooms

Copenhagen has since 2010 sought a more even distribution at its schools between children with Danish and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Why Copenhagen has taken steps to increase diversity in its classrooms
File photo: Niels Christian Vilmann/Ritzau Scanpix

In 2010, 16 schools in the capital – 1 in 4 – had a ratio of over 50 percent for children termed ‘bilingual’ (Danish: tosprogede), meaning a language other than Danish is spoken in their home environments.

That number has now been reduced to 9 schools in the city, newspaper Politiken reports. As such, demographics are now spread more evenly between schools in Copenhagen.

According to Copenhagen Municipality, the composition of schoolgoers’ backgrounds is important because 'bilingual' children fare worse at school than ethnically Danish children, on average.

“This is a pleasing development. We want Copenhagen to be a city in which the places where we live and go to school and daycare is mixed. We think this has a big impact with respect to integration and opportunity,” Social Democrat councillor Jesper Christensen, who heads the municipality’s children and youth committee, told Politiken.

The municipality has given greater flexibility in allowing children, particularly those from minority ethnic backgrounds, to attend schools other than their local district school.

That has, for example, enabled children from underprivileged areas in parts of Nørrebro to go to school in Østerbro, a neighbouring and more affluent area.

Nationally, Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye has previously (when in opposition) said that school classes should have no more than 30 percent ‘bilingual’ children.

The Ministry for Children and Education told Politiken that “it is still (our) ambition that distribution of school students should better reflect that of the general population,” the newspaper reports.

Although little research into the topic exists, a Danish study from 2011 found that the average grades of children in a class is negatively affected when the proportion of ‘bilingual’ children in that class exceeds 50 percent.

Pisa, the OECD's programme for international student assessment, has previously found that children with non-immigration backgrounds who attend schools with over 40 percent ‘bilingual’ students fare worse than equivalents at schools where the proportion is less than 10 percent.

READ ALSO: How do Denmark's Pisa school results compare to other countries?

Mikkel Høst Gandil, an assistant professor at the University of Oslo’s Economics institute, noted in comments to Politiken that the figures should not necessarily “be interpreted as the effect of going to school with many bilingual children”.

“The study cannot tell whether a specific child would fare better if the number of immigrant-background children in her school fell,” he told the newspaper.

The difference in results does not occur if differences in social conditions between students at the same schools are taken into account, he said.

A 2018 University of Copenhagen PhD project co-authored by Gandil and partly financed by Danish think tank the Economic Council of the Labour Movement found that weaker students benefited from attending stronger schools. Meanwhile, stronger pupils were not negatively affected by attending a school with a high proportion of students with weaker backgrounds, Politiken writes.

The project analysed school trends amongst 580,000 children.

READ ALSO: Why Copenhagen is the cheapest city in Europe for international schools