Denmark reverses residence decisions for hundreds of Syrian refugees

A large number of refugees from Syria who had their asylum status in Denmark revoked have since seen those decisions overturned, according to official figures.

People in Denmark protest in April 2021 against repatriation of Syrian refugees.
People in Denmark protest in April 2021 against repatriation of Syrian refugees. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been informed that their residence permit was revoked or their application rejected since the Danish government determined conditions in the Damascus area had “improved.” 

However, in 2022, the Danish Refugee Appeals Board (Flygtningenævnet) has reversed the decision of the Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) in 71 percent of Syrian cases addressed this year and allowed the refugees to stay, according to data supplied by the former agency to newspaper Dagbladet Information.

Between January and May, the Appeals Board, which issues binding decisions when applicants appeal a determination from the Immigration Service, overturned Immigration’s decision in 54 out of 76 cases and granted continued residence permits. 

That represents an increase in the proportion of turnovers compared to December 2021, when 43 percent of decisions were successfully appealed.

At the time, Ib Hounsgaard Trabjerg, chairman of the Appeals Board, described the rate of reversal as too high — “not least for the sake of those people who find their residence permits revoked or refused, creating uncertainty about their situation,” he said.

In a written comment to Information, Danish Immigration Service deputy director Henrik Thomassen said that the agency closely adheres to Appeal Board practice. It also stays updated on background information relating to European Court of Human Rights verdicts.

“To the extent that principal guidelines can be drawn from this, we adapt our practices accordingly,” Thomassen wrote.

A lag of around six months between Immigration Agency and Appeals Board decisions can mean additional information is available at the time decisions may be reversed, he noted.

In January this year, then-immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye was berated at the EU parliament by all but the most right wing MEPs for the Danish government’s insistence that it was safe enough in the Damascus area to repatriate some Syrian refugees to the region.

The policy has led to the withdrawal of asylum status from many Syrians in Denmark, condemning them to stays in the country’s infamous departure or expulsion centres.


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Half of all immigrants to Denmark in 2021 moved for work reasons

A new report from Statistics Denmark shows that 48 percent of residence permits granted to foreign nationals in Denmark in 2021 were for employment reasons. Asylum seekers accounted for 1 percent of new residents.

Half of all immigrants to Denmark in 2021 moved for work reasons

Since the beginning of the century, the reasons for which foreign nationals are granted residency in Denmark have changed considerably, according to a new report by national agency Statistics Denmark.

Over 48 percent of foreign nationals who moved to Denmark with a residence permit in 2021 did so for the purpose of working in the country.

That is the highest level in the last 20 years.

“During the last 20 years there has been a steep increase of immigration of persons who do not have Danish or Nordic citizenship, only briefly interrupted in 2020 because of Covid-19,” Statistics Denmark senior consultant Jørn Korsbø Petersen said in a press statement.

“But the reason for the immigrants’ residence has changed a lot during this period and last year almost half came to Denmark due to work,” Petersen said.

Data from back in 1997 show that during that year, half of the 21,264 people who were issued residency in Denmark arrived for asylum or family reunification reasons, with 32 percent moving for work or study.

In 2021, those proportions had shifted with 70 percent of the total 52,736 arrivals for reasons of either work or study.

Just 1 percent of residence permits were given for asylum with 5 percent granted family reunification.

The primary reason for that change is the increase in people moving to Denmark from other EU countries, according to Statistics Denmark.

Since 1997, a number of new countries including Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Romania have joined the EU, with immigration from these countries to Denmark for work reasons subsequently increasing.

Nationals of EU countries can freely move to Denmark to work under the right to free movement guaranteed by EU membership. Citizens of other countries do not have the same rights and must fulfil stringent criteria to be granted residency in the Nordic country.

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

That is reflected by the data, Statistics Denmark notes. Of the 25,500 persons who immigrated to Denmark for work reasons in 2021, 19,500 were EU or EEA citizens.

The numbers show that the demand for labour in Denmark is “almost insatiable” in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Tore Stramer, the senior economist with the Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv).

“Foreign labour has been a very important lifeline for Danish businesses at this conjuncture,” he said.

“If businesses had not been able to recruit foreign labour, the economic recovery after the corona crisis would have been significantly harder,” he said in a written comment.