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IMMIGRATION

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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POLITICS

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.

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