Brussels 25 January 2015
During a heated debate in the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs this afternoon, GUE/NGL MEPs condemned a controversial draft law* proposed by the Danish government to empower the authorities to seize valuable assets from refugees in order to pay for their stay when applying for asylum in Denmark, and postpone the right to family reunification for refugees under temporary protection.
On the eve of its expected adoption in the Danish Parliament tomorrow, the draft law was debated this afternoon by Civil Liberties Committee MEPs with Danish Foreign Affairs Minister Kristian Jensen and Minister for Immigration, Integration and Housing Inger Støjberg.
GUE/NGL Coordinator on the LIBE Committee, Cornelia Ernst, said: “Making people wait for three years before they can even apply for family reunification effectively means denying them their right to family life for three years, for no good reason. We are talking about a human right that is very broadly recognised, in Denmark, all over Europe and beyond.”
Danish MEP, Rina Ronja Kari, expressed opposition from within Denmark: “The proposed changes to the Danish asylum legislation are in breach of international conventions and the Danish government has in no way convinced the Parliament otherwise. It is disgraceful that the Danish government does not listen to the Council of Europe when they express their deep concern over the amendments, and their conduct in today’s exchange of views does not suggest that they will listen to the criticism from the Parliament either.”
Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, added: “Confiscating jewellery and goods ‘without sentimental value’ is immoral and grotesque: who will define whether an object is of sentimental value to a refugee or not, when it’s not a wedding ring? I also believe it’s unfair to compare an asylum-seeker to an unemployed Dane or EU citizen: a refugee has nothing, not even a bed. In order to receive a return on our ‘investment’ in the reception of migrants, we should instead invest in integrating them as quickly as possible into our labour market.”
Spanish MEP, Marina Albiol Guzmán: “Measures like having to wait for over six years in order to gain permanent residence or making asylum seekers pay for staying at the centres where they’re forced to live are aimed at closing the door to refugees and all migrants.”
“This legislation is racist and xenophobic, and goes against the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Geneva Convention, and many other European and international treaties. It also goes against all the solidarity compromises of the EU and therefore we expect a strong position from the Parliament and the European Commission to counter this bill that goes against human rights”.
Swedish MEP, Malin Björk, expressed the possibility of an alternative policy: “The Nordic left parties have presented an alternative solution to these repressive measures. A new Nordic Model with better cooperation between our countries, more pressure for a humanitarian EU refugee policy and a dismantling of fortress Europe.”
The draft law to be passed tomorrow by the Danish Parliament has several different components that will all have a devastating impact on the lives of asylum-seekers, including a 3-year waiting period to access family reunification for beneficiaries of temporary protection, tightening of criteria to obtain permanent residence permits, tightening of rules for revoking refugees’ residence permits, search by police of asylum-seekers and their belongings with a view to confiscating money and valuables to cover the costs of asylum-seekers’ stay, reduction of economic benefits by 10% and the obligation to be housed in asylum centres.
This draft law has been condemned by the UNHCR and Danish NGOs including the Danish Refugee Council. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights sent a letter to the Danish government on January 9, 2016 condemning these restrictive changes as ‘raising serious concerns of conformity with human rights standards’ asking the Danish government to reconsider these changes to ‘ensure that law and practice fully comply with Denmark’s obligation to uphold refugee protection standards’.
This new proposal must also be read in conjunction with the amendments to the Aliens Act introduced last November which increased the possibilities of detaining asylum-seekers under ‘special circumstances’ and weaken the judicial review of detention.
During the debate, the Danish Minister for Immigration insisted despite reference to criticism from the CoE and UNHCR that their proposals ‘live up to all conventions’ and reminded the Committee that the four largest groups of the European Parliament will vote in favour of the law tomorrow.