EU ruling overturns 138 Danish family reunification rejections

An EU ruling that a now-scrapped Danish immigration rule was illegal could lead to the reopening of 138 cases involving Turkish applicants for family reunification.

EU ruling overturns 138 Danish family reunification rejections
Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

In cases dating back to 2003, Denmark 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 had a closer connection to the source country of the applicant than to Denmark.

But the use of an ‘attachment clause' in this way is illegal, according to a June ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (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—the Ankara Agreement—that was infringed by the Danish family reunification decisions.

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

A legal assessment by Denmark’s immigration and justice ministries has now concluded that 138 partners of Turkish people resident in Denmark, whose family reunification applications were rejected from 2011 onwards, are entitled to have those cases reopened, Minister for Immigration and Integration Mattias Tesfaye confirmed in a parliamentary notification on Monday.

Politicians had expressed concern that up to 8,000 cases could have been reopened as a result of the CJEU ruling, Ritzau writes.

But that was not the conclusion of the legal assessment by the Danish ministries, which found that the impact of the ruling is limited to Turkish citizens encompassed by the Ankara Agreement.

Additionally, the assessment found that the CJEU judgement can only affect retrospective cases and will not impact current immigration rules.

READ ALSO: Denmark illegally refused family reunification of Turkish nationals: EU court

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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.