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22nd Nov 2019

EU court: Denmark's family-reunification law 'unjustified'

  • Denmark's family-reunification policies are among the toughest in Europe (Photo: vic xia)

Europe's top court has delivered a blow against Denmark's tough family reunification laws, in a case that is likely to cause headaches for its new left-leaning government.

Judges at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg on Wednesday (10 July) ruled that Danish restriction laws preventing a legally-resident Turkish national from bringing his wife to Denmark were unjustified.

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  • Mette Frederiksen, Denmark's 41-year old prime minister, may face a backlash over the ECJ ruling (Photo: Social Demokratiet)

The implication of the ruling could open up some 8,000 other pending cases in the Scandinavian country, whose tough stand on immigration has only slightly softened since the socialist camp took over the leadership last month.

Denmark's newly-appointed foreign and integration minister Mattias Tesfaye described the ruling as a potential "roadside bomb in Danish immigration policy", as cited in the Danish press.

The case at the ECJ revolves around Danish family reunification laws for married couples. Those laws weigh a connection criteria between Denmark and the country of origin - in this case, Turkey.

Although the rules were changed in 2018, the latest verdict stretches back some 10 years when settlement requirements in Denmark were different.

"Such a restriction is unjustified," noted the judges of the conditions imposed on the couple.

The court ruled against Denmark, in part because of the decades-old association agreement between the EU and Turkey that demands the exoneration of work and residency permit restrictions on Turkish nationals, including their family members.

The case involves a Turkish woman who lives in Turkey. In 2009, she sought to reunite with her husband and four children, all of whom have permanent residency in Denmark.

The children were all born in Turkey and the couple had divorced in 1998. The husband and children managed to get a permanent residency through his separate marriage to a German national, who also had residency in Denmark.

However, he then divorced his German spouse in June 2009 and remarried his former Turkish wife in August the same year.

She then filed for a reunification request with the Danish authorities in September 2009.

The Danish authorities argued her connection with Turkey was far stronger, despite having her entire immediate family in Denmark.

Asked to comment, a Danish government spokesperson has yet to respond as of publication.

Denmark's immigration policies have raised tricky questions in the past and pointed towards a right-wing influence on the laws.

In 2016, the government proposed holding public auctions of jewellery confiscated from asylum seekers.

The Social Democratic party under the new 41-year old prime minister Mette Frederiksen has also backed confiscating jewellery from asylum seekers and slapping bans on Islamic face veils.

It has also supported proposals to offshore the processing of asylum seekers in reception centres in north Africa.

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