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Denmark: Government Asks Parliament to Quickly Pass Act to Administratively Revoke Danish Citizenship

(Oct. 24, 2019) On October 14, 2019, the Danish government asked the Danish Parliament to pass legislation that would allow the minister for Immigration and Housing to administratively strip Danish citizens of their citizenship.

Following a legislative amendment that took effect in 2015, Denmark began recognizing dual citizenship. However, the country has also allowed the Danish citizenship of dual citizens who have committed terrorist crimes to be revoked. (§ 8B Lov om Dansk Infødsret (LBK nr 1029 af 10/07/2018).)

The provisions in section 1 of the proposed legislation that would specifically allow the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration to revoke citizenship are as follows:

Stk.  3.  A person who has engaged in a course of action that seriously harms the vital interests of the country may have his or her [Danish] citizenship revoked by the minister of Immigration and Integration unless the person concerned thereby becomes stateless.

Stk.  4. In cases where determinations as to whether [the person] has engaged in a course of action that seriously harms the vital interests of the country in accordance with stk. 3 rely considerably on information that for security reasons cannot be delivered to the party or to the Ministry of Immigration and Integration, the minister for Justice may determine whether the person must be considered to have engaged in a course of action that has seriously harmed the country’s vital interests. This evaluation shall form the basis of the Ministry of Immigration and Integration’s determination of the issue.

Thus, under the new rules Danish officials would be able to administratively revoke the citizenship of Danish citizens without a trial, even for persons who are abroad. As specified in the legislative history accompanying the proposal, the seriously harmful actions could include being unlawfully present in a war zone, as criminalized under Danish law, but could also involve other actions that are not specifically criminalized in the Danish Penal Code. (Forslag til Lov om ændring af lov om dansk indfødsret og udlændingeloven at 9.)

The responsible ministry would still need to make a proportionality judgment, including whether the persons stripped of their citizenship have ties to the European Union that makes a revocation of citizenship unproportional.

The legislative proposal is a direct response to the fear that the many Danish foreign fighters who joined the Islamic State (IS) in Syria now reportedly want to return to Denmark.

In the statement announcing the request the Danish prime minister declared that “[former IS fighters] are a threat to the safety of all of us. They are not wanted in Denmark. Therefore, the government wants to do all that is possible to prevent them from returning to Denmark.”

Under current rules, persons can be stripped of their Danish citizenship only following a court decision and as a result of violating Danish terrorist laws. In addition, stripping persons of their citizenship must not result in their becoming stateless. (§ 8B Lov om Dansk Infødsret (LBK nr 1029 af 10/07/2018).) For example, in 2016, the Danish Supreme Court stripped a Danish-Moroccan man who had been convicted of supporting al-Qaida of his Danish citizenship on the grounds that he had a greater connection to Morocco than Denmark. He was deported in 2019. In 2017, the Supreme Court stripped a Danish-born citizen and convicted IS fighter of his citizenship, finding that he had sufficient ties to Turkey, the country of his second citizenship, to make the revocation proportional, despite his being born and raised in Denmark.

The proposal is set for a “quick review” in Parliament, allowing for the proposal to be sent out and commented on within one week, and setting aside rules that normally require that a proposal rest for 30 days between when it is first presented by the Parliament and when it is voted on. Fifty-six stake holders and interest groups were asked to comment on the legislative proposal by October 21, 2019. The proposal is being discussed in Parliament on October 23 and 24Reportedly, a majority of the Danish Parliament (Socialdemokratiet, Venstre, Det Konservative Folkeparti, Danske Folkeparti, and Nye Borgerlige) have announced that they will support the proposal.