Denmark illegally refused family reunification of Turkish nationals: EU court

The Local Denmark
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Denmark illegally refused family reunification of Turkish nationals: EU court
An EU court ruling could force Denmark to reconsider thousands of family reunification cases. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen / Ritzau Scanpix

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on Wednesday that Denmark acted illegally in refusing to allow Turkish citizens to reside in the country under family reunification rules.


The ruling could result in the re-opening of thousands of residency applications, newspaper Politiken reports.

In cases dating back to 2003, Denmark has rejected applications for residency on the basis of family reunification for Turkish citizens due to a now-defunct rule known as the ‘association’ or 'attachment' clause (tilknytningskravet) which formed part of Danish immigration law until last year.

The clause enabled family reunification to be rejected on the grounds that the couple has a closer connection to the source country of the applicant than to Denmark.

Family reunification itself can be applied for by persons who are partners or immediate family members of individuals already resident in Denmark.

But the use of an ‘association clause’ in this way is illegal, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the CJEU.

Since the 1960s, Turkey has had an agreement in place with the EU which provides for it to be treated as if it was a member state in relation to certain areas. It is this agreement that is infringed by the Danish family reunification decisions, Politiken writes.

The CJEU ruling could also impact cases involving nationals of countries other than Turkey, according to a previous assessment by the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration. Thousands of settled cases involving family reunification may have to be reopened as a result of Wednesday’s outcome at the CJEU.

In 2014-15, over 14,000 people were refused family reunification with their spouses, the newspaper reports. The association requirement was scrapped last summer as rules were revamped.

Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye has previously – and prior to taking over the ministry following June’s general election – called the outcome a “potential roadside bomb in Danish immigration politics”, but also said in a 2016 interview with Politiken that his Social Democrat party would “obey rulings that are given” by the EU court.

Thomas Ryhl, the lawyer who brought the case against Denmark on behalf of a Turkish national who works in Denmark and wants his wife to be permitted to join him in the country, called the ruling “superb” in comments to Politiken.

“We expect this ruling to mean that many married couples will be able to get their cases re-opened, and be granted family reunification permits so that after 2, 5, 10 or 15 years’ waiting, they can be allowed to live together – in Denmark, if that’s what they still want,” Ryhl said.

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