Danish authorities criticised for use of physical force on asylum seeker

A video has spread on social media appearing to show hard use of physical force by Danish authorities during the deportation of a woman whose asylum claims were rejected.

Danish authorities criticised for use of physical force on asylum seeker
A screenshot from a Twitter video showing Danish authorities conducting an forced deportation at the Avnstrup asylum centre on March 29th. Screenshot used with permission

Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye has been summoned to a parliamentary committee, at which lawmakers from other parties can demand the minister respond to the incident, broadcaster DR reports.

The video was shared by Trampoline House, a Danish independent citizens’ resource NGO for asylum seekers and refugees. The organisation wrote on social media that the woman, a mother of three, was injected with a tranquiliser during the attempted deportation.

In the video, which was taken at the Avnstrup asylum centre, four people can be seen holding the woman to the ground, with her head held against the paving stones. She is visibly shaking in the footage. A man in civilian clothing then brings restraints which are used to tie her.

The Danish Return Agency (Hjemrejsestyrelsen), the agency responsible for processing deportations, and the North Zealand police told news wire Ritzau that medicine had not been administered to the woman, however. They confirmed that physical restraint was used.

The woman, an Iranian national, was to be deported from Denmark with her two oldest children while her youngest child, who is one year old, remains in Denmark with its father, according to Trampoline House, which also wrote on social media that splitting the family represents a breach of the ECHR’s right to family life.

She is also reported to hold an expired Iranian passport.

“I can’t bear to think of the fate that awaits the Kurdish woman who was yesterday forcibly deported. I have called Tesfaye in to consultation so he can explain if this is really how we treat people if it’s up to the government,” Sikandar Siddique of the Independent Green party wrote on Twitter.

Rosa Lund of the Red Green Alliance said in comments to newspaper Politiken she was unaware Denmark was able to forcibly deport rejected asylum seekers to Iran because this would require a repatriation agreement with Iran, which Denmark does not have.

The Ministry of Immigration and Integration told the newspaper that this is in fact possible for persons who have an Iranian travel document, regardless of whether the document is valid.

“This forced deportation testifies to a complete failure of the Danish asylum policy. Both ethically and practically,” Trampoline House told The Local in a written comment.

The organisation called for more humane treatment of vulnerable asylum seekers and argued that this would in fact benefit the established policy of deporting persons whose claims for asylum are not granted.

“In Denmark we take away people’s basic rights and confine them into isolated camps. In the Netherlands the rejected are allowed to work, study and enjoy a much more normal life, until departure date,” it added, noting that in 2017, 4.4 percent of rejected asylum seekers left Denmark voluntarily, while the Netherlands recorded a proportion of 44 percent.

READ ALSO: Inside Denmark’s Kærshovedgård deportation camp

According to broadcaster TV2, the Danish Return Agency has confirmed that the woman left Denmark on a flight following the episode captured in the video, but has now returned to the country after sustaining an injury during the journey. 

Danish law allows the use of physical force in deportations if necessary when a person without legal residence status in Denmark does not comply voluntarily with their deportation travel.

According to the country’s Aliens Act (Ulændingeloven), such enforced deportation must be “with respect for the individual and without unnecessary use of force”.

Police are responsible for carrying out deportations based on the decisions made by immigration authorities.

“If people don’t leave voluntarily, they can be deported forcibly. As long as you stick to restraint and don’t turn to violence, it’s within the framework [legally, ed.],” Niels Henrik Christensen, a lawyer specialised in asylum, refugee and immigration law, told TV2.

“Force is used and (authorities) have that right. Nothing in the video surprises me. I’m not saying that to defend it, but that is allowed,” he said.

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Application system jams as thousands of Ukrainians apply for Danish residence under new law

Many Ukrainian nationals have applied for residence in Denmark under a new law passed this week, resulting in possible delays on approval of work permits.

Application system jams as thousands of Ukrainians apply for Danish residence under new law

Thousands of people from Ukraine have applied for residence and work permits in Denmark under a new law passed on Wednesday and a subsequent bottleneck in the system has now appeared, newspaper Politiken reported on Friday.

To get a residence permit under the special law for Ukrainian refugees, applicants must book an appointment at one of four ‘Borgerservice’ (Citizens’ Service) centres across Denmark in order to submit biometric information.

The four centres are located in Odense, Aalborg, Aarhus and Næstved. The latter is the closest to Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Ukrainians can apply for residence and work permits in Denmark

According to Politiken, which tried out the booking system on Thursday, no appointments were currently available this year in Aalborg, Aarhus or Odense.

In Næstved, the only location in the eastern part of Denmark including Copenhagen, the next available appointment was April 2nd.

The government earlier indicated that it expected around 20,000 Ukrainians to flee to Denmark because of the invasion of their country by Russia, which began late last month.

But Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said on Thursday that the government now expects “significantly more” than 20,000 people from Ukraine to eventually arrive.

Tesfaye admitted in comments to Politiken that capacity at Borgerservice centres must be extended including by opening during weekends.

“I expect that, from next week, there will also be the option of submitting an application [biotmetrics, ed.] in Copenhagen and I know that new appointments will appear in the system on an ongoing basis,” the minister told Politiken in a written response.

The Danish Immigration Service told news wire Ritzau on Friday that two additonal locations for the biometry appointments would open on Tuesday next week, and that appointments would be available prior to that. The new locations are in Valby near Copenhagen and in Aarhus.