Denmark to cut wait for family reunion after losing European court case

Syrian refugees protest outside Denmark's parliament against Denmark's decision that the area around Damascus is now 'safe'.
Syrian refugees protest outside Denmark's parliament against Denmark's decision that the area around Damascus is now 'safe'. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
Denmark is to reduce the amount of time refugees need to wait before apply for family reunification after The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the current "three-year rule" was excessive.

In a press release issued on Friday, the country’s immigration ministry said that it would next year submit a bill amending the country’s immigration law, or udlændingeloven to reduce the length of time refugees need to wait before applying for family reunion from three years to two.

But the new law will also contain a clause allowing Denmark to bring back the “three-year rule” at short notice if there is a refugee crisis.

“I of course regret that the verdict went against Denmark,” Mattias Tesfaye, Denmark’s immigration minister, said in statement, adding that he was nonetheless “relieved” that the court had deemed a two-year wait acceptable, and had also left open the possibility of longer waits during periods of extremely high refugee numbers.

“We are working hard to keep our refugee numbers at a record low, but if we today have a situation similar to 2015, we want to be able to lift the limit from two to three years. That is a good tool to have in our toolbox.”

The so-called MA case was brought by the Syrian doctor Mosalam Albaroudi, who arrived in Denmark in 2015 and then five months later applied for family reunification with his wife and was rejected.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled on July 9th that the reason for the rejection of his reunification visa was a violation of human rights.

The case concerns a controversial change to Denmark’s laws in 2016, when Denmark’s Parliament (Folketing) passed the so-called “three-year rule” that required refugees to wait three years before applying for family reunification.

That’s why Albaroudi’s application was denied a residence permit for his wife. The decision was upheld by Denmark’s Supreme Court in 2017.

Albaroudi and his lawyer, Christian Dahlager, believed the decision violated the European Convention on Human Rights, and so they continued their efforts to overturn the ruling.

The Convention states that everyone has the right to privacy and family life, and that an authority can restrict this right only if it is necessary in a democratic society to protect a number of essential interests of society. It applies to members of the Council of Europe, to which Denmark belongs.

In its decision, the European Court of Human Rights stated that Denmark’s three-year waiting period has not “struck a reasonable balance between, on the one hand, the applicant’s interest in being reunited with his wife in Denmark and, on the other hand, society’s interest as a whole in being able to control immigration in order to protect the country’s economic well being, to ensure effective integration and to maintain the cohesion of society.”

Sixteen judges voted in favor of Albaroudi, and one judge abstained. The court also awarded Albaroudi compensation of 75,000 kroner.


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