Danish agency sent letters about deportation to refugee children

The Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) sent a letter about deportation to Syrian refugees as young as 12, according to a documentary.

Danish agency sent letters about deportation to refugee children
People demonstrate against deportation of Syrians by Denmark in 2021. File photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

A documentary by public service broadcaster DR has revealed that the Danish government sends letters to children under 15 as their families’ refugee applications are being processed. 

The documentary, titled På flugt fra Danmark (‘Fleeing from Denmark’) features Ghazal Sbinati, a 12-year-old who was born in Syria and has spent eight years living and studying in Denmark.

“I go to school and have many friends and I hope we stay in Denmark,” Sbinati says in the documentary.

Sbinati received a letter, addressed to her by name, from the Danish Immigration Service telling her “if you do not leave voluntarily, you can be forcibly sent to Syria.”

In fact, Denmark does not have a repatriation agreement with Syria because it does not recognise the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad. This means that Denmark cannot force refugees whose status has been revoked to leave, but instead places them at ‘departure centres’ or udrejsecentre until they leave voluntarily.

The Immigration Service told DR it’s standard practice to communicate with every member of a family during application processing.

Children under the age of 15, who do not have official digital post, receive these communications by mail and addressed with their name. 

The Danish Refugee Council objected to the policy.

“Why use the words about forced deportation in the letters? Instead, the Immigration Service should not process these cases until they know whether they can forcibly deport,” the organisation’s head of asylum Eva Singer said.

“When you address a letter directly to a child and write that they can be forcibly deported to Syria if they don’t go themselves, that’s a completely different way for an authority to be talking to a child and threatening them with what they’re at risk of. I think that’s shocking,” she said.

The Danish Immigration Service said it was reconsidering the practice when presented with the issue by DR.

“The Danish Immigration Service can confirm that we are currently in consideration of our practice regarding informing children of our decisions,” it said.

Despite the letter she received, Sbinati and her family received a two-year extension to their residence permit. 

The DR documentary will be broadcast on Monday.

READ ALSO: Denmark tells pregnant Syrian woman with job in care sector to leave country

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.