Denmark is a signatory to the Refugee Convention and grants asylum for refugees and persons seeking subsidiary protection. Refugees are received both through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees relocation program (quota refugees) and through application from persons arriving at the border. Applicants are vetted by the Danish Immigration Service and by the police. The Danish government has made a number of changes to its asylum laws and policies following the asylum crisis of 2015. Changes include reducing the amount of monetary assistance to asylum seekers, delaying family reunification, and proposing confiscation of assets to pay for the housing and support of the asylum seeker.
I. General Background
Denmark is a country of 5.64 million people. It borders Germany and is connected with Sweden through the Oresund Bridge. Ferries from Denmark travel to Norway and Sweden. In 2013 Denmark was seventh on the list of asylum seekers received per capita among the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
During the first eleven months of 2015 Denmark received 18,000 applications for asylum. Of these, 1,700 were unaccompanied minors. Approximately 9,000 applications were approved during the same period. The greatest number of asylum seekers during the first eleven months of 2015 came from Syria, Iran, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. Among unaccompanied minors, Afghans and Syrians were the two largest groups of nationalities. In addition, Denmark had received 14,000 applications for family reunification during the first eleven months of 2015, making the total number of asylum seekers more than 32,000.
II. Recognition of Right of Asylum
Danish laws and regulations govern asylum. Denmark does not have a list of safe countries applicants from which are automatically deemed not entitled to asylum; rather, each application is reviewed on its own merits. Denmark has an agreement with Afghanistan regarding the return of asylum seekers whose applications are denied.
A. Refugee (Convention) Status
Denmark was the first signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Ratification was made through the Danish Aliens Act. Asylum is given to those who qualify as refugees under the Convention, which defines as a refugee a person who,
owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
B. Protection Status
Asylum seekers who do not qualify as refugees may receive protection status (also known as subsidiary protection) “if returning to their home country would mean they face capital punishment, torture or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.”
C. Temporary Protection Status
Denmark also grants temporary protection status “to individuals who face capital punishment, torture or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment due to severe instability and indiscriminate violence against civilians in their home country.”
D. Humanitarian Protection
In rare cases, such as when an asylum seeker is suffering severe illness, asylum seekers may receive humanitarian protection. This protection is temporary and only lasts as long as the humanitarian grounds for protection, e.g., the illness, persists.
III. Application Process
A. Quota Refugees
Denmark receives refugees through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) relocation program. The Danish Parliament annually decides how many refugees to accept through this program. The Danish government has approved the acceptance of 1,500 quota refugees over a three-year period. In 2015 Denmark accepted 356 quota refugees. Quota refugees receive renewable five-year residency permits. This is proposed to change in 2016. Under the new proposal, residency will be given for three years instead of five. In addition, changes to the selection procedures are proposed, adding a requirement that the selection of quota refugees should be based on the refugee’s potential for integration.
Quota refugees are screened by the UNHCR as well as the Danish Immigration Service. After the UNHCR makes an initial screening and a suggestion of which refugees should be relocated to Denmark, the Danish Immigration Service conducts interviews with the refugees before they are relocated to Denmark. Municipalities and the Dansk Flygtningehjælp (Danish Refugee Council) are also allowed to participate in these interviews.
B. At the Border
In addition to receiving quota refugees Denmark also accepts asylum applications by individuals who arrive at the Danish border. Application is then made at either a local police station or at the reception center in Sandholm. In 2015 approximately 18,000 persons sought asylum in Denmark in this manner. Denmark does not allow for asylum applications at Danish embassies or consulates.
C. Unaccompanied Minors
Denmark received approximately 1,700 unaccompanied minors in 2015. Unaccompanied minors have the right to special representation (through a guardian) and receive temporary residence permits ranging from one to five years that are renewable.
D. Family Reunification
Denmark allows for family reunification. During 2015 more than 14,000 persons sought family reunification in Denmark. The Danish government has proposed changes to the Danish family reunification regulations, which would mean that individuals granted temporary protection status (see above, Part II(C)) would have to wait three years until family reunification could be sought.
Asylum seekers are housed in asylum centers or tents. After six months of applying for asylum, asylum seekers are allowed to find their own housing until their application has been processed. They may not buy real property, however. Moreover, unlike asylum-center housing, which is financed by the state, an asylum seeker must finance his own housing and does not receive extra monetary benefits to cover his or her expenses in such housing. If an asylum seeker finances his own housing he or she must contract with the Danish Immigration Service and promise to leave the country if he or she is denied asylum.
B. Monetary Benefits
Asylum seekers receive cash benefits while their applications are pending if they cannot support themselves. The cash benefit in 2015 was DKK 54.04 (about US$7.89) per day for a single person living rent-free at an asylum center where meals were not included. Spouses who share accommodations receive DKK 42.79 (about US$6.24) each if they live in an asylum center where meals are not included. In addition asylum seekers receive between DKK 9.02 (about US$1.32) and DKK 31.54 (about US$4.60) per day depending on what stage of the process the application is in.
Caregivers of children also receive an additional DKK 63.06 (about US$9.20) or DKK 85.57 (about US$12.49) per child per day depending on whether the Danish authorities have found that Denmark is the country where asylum should be sought or not. Caregivers of children receive a smaller allowance for their third and fourth child of DKK 45.05 (about US$6.57) per child per day.
Asylum seekers may in addition receive other benefits/assistance from the government such as hygiene products or baby-care products.
C. Health Care
Asylum seekers aged seven to sixteen have the right to attend school free of charge either at the asylum center, remotely, or at local schools.
V. Path to Citizenship
Danish Citizenship is acquired through law, meaning a law is adopted by Parliament listing the names of the individuals who will receive Danish Citizenship through naturalization. To become a citizen through naturalization a person must be a permanent resident of Denmark. Special rules allow refugees to receive citizenship after eight years of continuous residence, compared to nine years for other foreigners.
In addition to meeting the permanent residence requirement a person seeking to become a citizen of Denmark must pass a language test as well as history and civics tests. The person must also swear allegiance to Denmark, not have a criminal record, and meet self-sufficiency requirements.
VI. Monitoring by Security Police
The role of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (Politiets Efterretningstjenestes, PET), is regulated in law. The Danish Immigration Service can forward information about a foreigner without the foreigner’s prior consent to the PET for analysis. The Justice Minister can deport a person with reference to national security. A person who cannot be deported from Denmark receives a tålt ophold, which means that he or she will have to reside in a special place and report to the police.
VII. Travel Restrictions
Person who have been granted asylum in Denmark cannot travel to the country from which they sought asylum. This ban is in place for at least ten years. Persons who have not received permanent residence in Denmark will always lose their residency permit if they travel to their home country, even if they received a temporary permit more than ten years ago. Once a person receives permanent residency the time spent in Denmark in temporary status counts toward the ten-year requirement.
In December 2015 the government proposed changes to the travel restrictions requirements which would provide that even for permanent residence holders a visit to the country from which they sought refuge would create a presumption that they no longer needed asylum in Denmark and thus allow their residence permits to be revoked.
VIII. The Role of Municipalities
The independence of municipalities is regulated in law and listed in the Constitution. The relocation of persons who have received asylum from the asylum centers to the municipalities is determined by the Danish Immigration Service in conjunction with the municipalities. The number of asylum recipients sent to each municipality is meant to reflect the population of the municipality. Municipalities are responsible for the costs of health care for their inhabitants.
IX. Response to Refugee Crisis
A. Legislative Changes and Proposals
The Danish government and coalition parties have presented a thirty-four item list of proposed measures intended to stem the influx of asylum seekers to Denmark by making Denmark a less attractive destination for asylum seekers. Measures include shorter residency permits and more restrictive family reunification policies. Of these thirty-four measures, eleven have been implemented by Parliament.
One controversial measure is the seizing of valuables from asylum seekers. The Ministry of Immigration, Integration and Housing has explained the measure by noting that the Danish welfare state is intended to help people who do not have the financial capacity to help themselves, not those who can, and that this principle includes asylum seekers. The measure now means that the police can seize valuables worth DKK 10,000 (about US$1,459) or more. Certain items such as wedding and engagement rings are excluded. In the initial proposal the value threshold was DKK 3,000 (about US$438). The new rules also apply to asylum seekers already in the country.
Most of the new rules entered into force on February 4, 2016.
B. Border Controls
On January 4, 2016 (when Sweden started requiring ID checks on all public transportation going into Sweden), Denmark initiated a temporary border control along its German border. The border control was coupled with an amendment to the Aliens Act that prescribes ID controls of passengers traveling by bus, train, and boat, and requires that the operators conduct these ID checks before allowing passengers to travel into Denmark. Unlike the Swedish border control this Danish law prescribes fines for transporters who do not also check whether the person traveling into Denmark has valid travel documentation (i.e., a visa) that allows travel to Denmark. As of January 14, the border control was not a complete border control but a control with random samplings. The border controls are expected to stay in force until the Swedish ID-controls are abandoned, i.e., for at least six months. According to news reports, the number of asylum seekers has sharply decreased following the implementation of border controls; on January 13 only eleven persons sought asylum in Denmark, down sharply from previous numbers. An expected 25,000 persons are expected to apply for asylum in Denmark in 2016.
The Danish Police has estimated that, at a minimum, 92,000 foreign asylum seekers crossed the country’s borders between January 2015 and January 2016. Many are thought to have continued on to Sweden and Norway.
Prepared by Elin Hofverberg
Foreign Law Research Consultant
 George Arnett, Sweden – The OECD’s Highest Per Capita Recipient of Asylum Seekers, The Guardian (Dec. 2, 2014), http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/dec/02/sweden-oecds-highest-per-capita-asylum-seekers-syria, archived at https://perma.cc/YT3H-BFU9.
 See statistics at Tal & statistik, NyiDanmark, https://www.nyidanmark.dk/da-dk/Statistik/Search Statistics.htm?searchtype=statistics (last visited Jan. 15, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/TAH4-PZS4.
 Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet, Tal på udlændingeområdet pr. 30.11.2015, at 6 (Nov. 30, 2015), https://www.nyidanmark.dk/NR/rdonlyres/E3C50EA0-BD36-4DDD-9C8D-7AAF44DE1F12/ 0/seneste_tal_udlaendingeeomraadet.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/T3Y4-MM9E.
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 Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet, supra note 4, at 5.
 Id. at 10.
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 Id. 7 §.
 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees art. 1, July 28, 1951, 19 U.S.T. 6259, 189 U.N.T.S. 137 (Convention) & Jan. 31, 1967, 19 U.S.T. 6223, 606 U.N.T.S. 267 (Protocol), http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2a a10.html, archived at https://perma.cc/X7Y7-V9SR.
 Id.; see also Asylum, NewtoDenmark (Oct. 16, 2015), https://www.nyidanmark.dk/en-us/coming_to_dk/ asylum/asylum.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/B4D5-4CYJ.
 9 § Danish Aliens Act; see also Humanitær opholdstilladelse, NyiDanmark (Sept. 23, 2015), https://www.nyidanmark.dk/da-dk/Ophold/humanitaert_ophold/humanitaer_opholdstilladelse.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/NQP3-88U5.
 8 § Danish Aliens Act; see also Kvoteflygtninge, NyiDanmark (Sept. 23, 2015), https://www.nyidanmark. dk/da-dk/Ophold/asyl/kvoteflygtninge/kvoteflygtninge.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/NF4B-2QDF.
 Kvoteflygtninge, NyiDanmark, supra note 18.
 For the period January 1, 2015, to Nov. 30, 2015, Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet, supra note 4, at 4.
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 Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet, supra note 4.
 Ansøgning om asyl, NyiDanmark, supra note 29.
 This is the number received during the first eleven months. Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet, supra note 4.
 See Uledsagede mindreårige asylansøgere, NyiDanmark (Nov. 16, 2015), https://www.nyidanmark.dk/da-dk/Ophold/asyl/uledsagede_boern.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/6T8E-E3M4.
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 Udlændinge-, Integrations- og Boligministeriet, supra note 4, at 10.
 Forslag til lov om ændring af udlændingeloven, Folketinget, supra note 25; see also Theis Lange Olsen, Asylpakke: Regeringen vil begrænse familiesammenføringer yderligere, DR (Nov. 13, 2015), http://www.dr.dk/ nyheder/politik/asylpakke-regeringen-vil-begraense-familiesammenfoeringer-yderligere, archived at https://perma.cc/GXF2-47QW.
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 42a § Danish Aliens Act; see also Bekendtgørelse om udlevering af naturalieydelser til asylansøgere m.fl. (BEK nr 1358 af 15/12/2005), https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=29015, archived at https://perma.cc/4M3G-CX72.
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 See id. § 1.
 PET-loven (LBK nr 1600 af 19/12/2014) [Act on the Danish Security and Intelligence Service], https://www.retsinformation.dk/forms/r0710.aspx?id=165838, archived at https://perma.cc/DB2A-N8UR.
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 Id.; see also 45b § Danish Aliens Act.
 Udlændinge-sager, PET, supra note 63; see also Det danske samfunds indsats og beredskab mod terror, Statsministeriet, http://www.stm.dk/publikationer/terror/Kap4.htm (last visited Jan. 19, 2016), archived at https://perma.cc/LR92-KN46.
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 Bekendtgørelse om boligplacering af flygtninge (BEK nr 50 af 18/01/2008).
 118 § Health Care Act.
 Lov om ændring af udlændingeloven (Lovtidende [LOV] nr 102 af 03/02/2016) [Act on Changes to the Aliens Act], https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=177348, archived at https://perma.cc/XF5T-W32B; Elin Hofverberg, Denmark: Law to Stem Asylum-Based Immigration, Global Legal Monitor (Feb. 1, 2016), //www.loc.gov/law/foreign-news/article/denmark-law-to-stem-asylum-based-immigration/, archived at https://perma.cc/PHC2-VX4N; see also L 87 – Forslag til lov om ændring af udlændingeloven, Folketinget, supra note 25.
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 L 74 Forslag til lov om ændring af udlændingeloven, Folketinget, http://www.ft.dk/samling/20151/ lovforslag/L74/index.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/SAE6-5NKK; text of amendment available at Lov om ændring af udlændingeloven (LOV nr 1499 af 11/12/2015) [Act on Amendments to the Danish Aliens Act], https://www.retsinformation.dk/Forms/R0710.aspx?id=176355, archived at https://perma.cc/H7AD-25XU.
 L 74 Forslag til lov om ændring af udlændingeloven, supra note 88.
 Resultat af den midlertidige stikprøvevise grænsekontrol ved den dansk-tyske grænse, Politi (Jan. 17, 2016), https://www.politi.dk/da/aktuelt/nyheder/resultat_af_den_midlertidige_stikproevevise_graensekontrol_ved_den_dansk_tyske_graense.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/MY5L-39AK.
 See Frågor och svar: Lag och förordning om identitetskontroller vid allvarlig fara för den allmänna ordningen eller den inre säkerheten i landet, Regeringskansliet (Dec. 18, 2015; updated Feb. 4, 2016), http://www.regeringen.se/artiklar/2015/12/fragor-och-svar-lag-och-forordning-om-identitetskontroller-vid-allvarlig-fara-for-den-allmanna-ordningen-eller-den-inre-sakerheten-i-landet/.
 11 personer soegte asyl onsdag, DR (Jan. 14, 2016), http://www.dr.dk/nyheder/politik/11-personer-soegte-asyl-onsdag, archived at https://perma.cc/F7ZU-EDS6.
 Skønsmæssig vurdering af indrejste udlændinge, Politi (Jan. 11, 2016), https://www.politi.dk/da/aktuelt/nyheder/ skoensmaessig_vurdering_af_indrejste_udlaendinge.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/MHW6-TTX8.
Last Updated: 12/30/2020