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Denmark in 'race to the bottom' as Parliament debates changes to refugee law

Proposed changes to Denmark’s refugee law would have a devastating impact on vulnerable people who, in addition to having assets seized, would be forced to wait years for the chance to be reunited with family members trapped in warzones and refugee camps, said Amnesty International ahead of a parliamentary debate today.

Danish MPs will debate proposed amendments to the Aliens Act, including one that would make “war refugees” wait for three years before being eligible to apply for family reunification.

While there has been a public outcry over the Danish government’s proposal to seize certain assets from refugees, there are a host of other equally far-reaching and regressive measures being moved swiftly through the country’s parliament. Among them are further restrictions on eligibility requirements for permanent residency, reductions to the length of temporary residence permits and the introduction of a 7,000 Danish Krone (£700) fee for family reunification applications. A final vote on the amendments will take place next Tuesday (26 January).

Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe, said:

“It’s simply cruel to force people who are running from conflicts to make an impossible choice: either bring children and other loved ones on dangerous, even lethal journeys, or leave them behind and face a prolonged separation while they continue to suffer the horrors of war.

“Separation can have a devastating impact on families, including their rehabilitation from experiences of trauma and their ability to integrate and adapt to life in a new country.

“The international community must call Denmark out as it enters a race to the bottom. Denmark was one of the first champions of the Refugee Convention, but its government is now brazenly creating blocks to the well-being and safety of refugee families.”

The Danish government has proceeded with these plans despite acknowledging that they risk violating Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to family life. The UN Refugee Agency has also warned that these proposals risk violating other articles of the European Convention and the global Convention on the Rights of the Child. The measures – including amendments passed in November 2015 making it possible for police to detain asylum-seekers and migrants without judicial oversight – are part of the government’s stated aim to make Denmark less attractive to asylum-seekers.

Amnesty is urging other countries to press Denmark to change its worrying stance on refugees when it faces scrutiny at the UN’s Universal Periodic Review, also happening today.

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