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Denmark: Proposal to Increase Immigration Controls

(July 10, 2015) The Danish government recently announced plans to re-establish border controls to combat illegal immigration and smuggling. According to the Foreign Minister, Kristian Jensen, “[w]e will suggest something that is within the Schengen rules and there will be a dialogue with Brussels and the EU commission, but also with our neighbouring countries.” (Chris Bolwig, Denmark Tightens Immigrant Controls, ICE NEWS (July 6, 2015).)

The plan is thus to maintain the rules of the 26-nation Schengen agreement bloc, a group of countries that permit free crossing of their borders with each other, but to introduce immigration checks. (Id.; Schengen Area (last updated June 12, 2015), EUROPA.)

In order to come into effect, the proposal would have to be enacted as legislation. At present the support of the Danish People’s Party, an anti-immigration political group, is likely, as well as that of the administration. (Bolwig, supra.) Denmark’s current government has been in place only since June 28, 2015. (Denmark to Reimpose Border Controls ‘Within the Schengen Rules,’ GUARDIAN (June 30, 2015) .)

Background

After a 2001 election, Denmark enacted very strict immigration and asylum regulations that resulted in a decline of 70% over the next nine years in the number of family members of immigrants and of asylum seekers applying to enter the country. The laws put limits on benefits to immigrants and on their ability to work. Furthermore, Danish citizens marrying foreigners had to pay for a bond worth the equivalent of $11,600. (William Lee Adams, A Blow to Europe’s Far-Right: Denmark Reshapes Its Immigration Policies, TIME (Oct. 6, 2011).) The last attempt at imposing strict border controls, proposed by Denmark in 2011, was opposed by the European Commission and by the neighboring country Germany. (Bolwig, supra.)

With a different administration in place in the fall of 2011 after that year’s election, immigration policy was relaxed, and the border control plans were dropped. Among other measures, the new leadership planned to grant automatic citizenship to children born and raised in Denmark, whether or not their parents were Danish citizens; re-establish equal welfare rights for immigrants; and reduce the application fees and bond requirements for asylum seekers and immigrant relatives wanting to reunify their families in Denmark. (Adams, supra.; Aliens (Consolidation) Act (Oct. 2, 2012, as last amended June 25, 2013), NEW TO DENMARK.DK.)

Current Plan

According to Lars Peter Levy, who spoke for the Foreign Ministry, “[t]here won’t be a border barrier and it’s not [to be located] … on the border [line directly]. There will be checks in the border areas.” (Denmark to Reimpose Border Controls ‘Within the Schengen Rules,’ supra.)

French Case on a Similar Issue

In another case that tested the validity of border controls within the Schengen Area, on June 29, 2015, an administrative court in France stated that the border controls at the French boundary with Italy were legal and not inconsistent with the Schengen agreement. (Id.; THE SCHENGEN ACQUIS INTEGRATED INTO THE EUROPEAN UNION (May 1, 1999), EUROPA [contains original 1985 agreement and later implementing documents].) The decision stated that “the suppression of systematic interior border controls in the Schengen area does not prevent French authorities from carrying out identity controls … . These controls are thus not equivalent to the implementation of a permanent and systematic control at the French-Italian border.” (Top French Court Approves Border Controls with Italy, RELIEFWEB (June 29, 2015); Contrôles frontière franco-italienne [French-Italian Border Controls], Council of State website (June 29, 2015).)