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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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Rights Court Rules Against Denmark Waiting Period for Refugee Family Reunification

In response to a surge in migrants coming to Europe, Denmark passed a law requiring refugees to reside in the country for three years before applying for their families to join them.

STRASBOURG, France (CN) — A Danish law requiring a three-year waiting period for the families of asylum-seekers to join them violates their right to family life, Europe’s top rights court ruled Friday.

The European Court of Human Rights found that Danish authorities did not strike a fair balance between the rights of a 62-year-old Syrian asylum seeker and the interests of the country when they denied his wife a residency permit.

“A waiting period of three years, although temporary, is by any standard a long time to be separated from one’s family, when the family member left behind remains in a country characterized by arbitrary violent attacks and ill-treatment of civilians and when insurmountable obstacles to reunification there have been recognized,” the Strasbourg-based court wrote.

Mosalam Albaroudi fled Syria in 2015, first going to Istanbul and then Greece before traveling more than 1,000 miles to Denmark hidden in the back of a truck. Once in Denmark, he applied for asylum, arguing that his training as a medical doctor made him a target of both the Syrian regime and rebel groups. He was granted a temporary residence permit while his asylum claim was pending.

In response to an influx of refugees during the European migrant crisis, Denmark tightened its family unification conditions, requiring refugees to reside in the country for three years before applying for their families to join them.

Albaroudi applied in 2015 for his wife and two adult children to join him in Denmark, a request that was denied in 2016 on the grounds that he hadn’t resided in the country for three years. Repeated appeals were denied and ultimately the case was brought to the European Court of Human Rights. Established in 1953 by the European Convention of Human Rights, the court protects the political and civil rights of Europeans.

“The immigration court’s decision was unjustified when considering the particular circumstances in my client’s case,” Albaroudi’s lawyer Christian Dahlager told the court in a June 2020 hearing. The 17-judge panel noted that the waiting period would likely be even longer since the application process also took time.

Ultimately, the court found fault with Copenhagen’s inflexible approach.

“In these circumstances, it cannot be said that the applicant was afforded a real possibility under the applicable law of the respondent state of having an individualized assessment of whether a shorter waiting period than three years was warranted by considerations of family unity,” the court wrote.

The case is seen as a win for refugee and migrant rights from a court that has, in recent years, become more restrictive in its interpretation of asylum rights. It is one of several pending cases against Denmark at the court relating to the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers.

In April, Denmark became the first European country to revoke residency permits for Syrian refugees, arguing the Damascus region was safe for them to return, leading to widespread protests. Copenhagen has no formal relationship with the Syrian regime, so refugees cannot be forcibly deported, but they have been forced into detention camps.

The court ordered Denmark to pay Albaroudi 10,000 euros ($12,000) in damages.

Albaroudi reapplied for a residency permit for his wife in 2018, which was approved, and she joined him the following year.

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Categories / Civil Rights, International, Law

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