High-profile couple win immigration appeal

Journalist Ralf Christensen, who sparked a national debate last autumn, and his wife Merih receive family reunification under EU laws

April 30th, 2013 11:41 am| by admin

When journalist Ralf Christensen and his Turkish wife, Merih, were denied family reunification under EU rules, a scathing opinion piece he wrote for Politiken newspaper about the “degrading” and “inhumane” treatment they received at Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) created a frenzy.


His op-ed spread quickly via social media and once again brought focus on the lack of 'service' at Immigration Service. Politicians got involved, promises were made, and immigration officials changed staffing levels to address the problem.


All the while, the Christensens awaited a decision on the appeal of their rejection. That answer finally came this week.


"It is with great joy and delight that I can announce that Merih and I have won our appeal to the Justice Ministry against our denial of family reunification under EU laws," Christensen announced yesterday on Twitter. "This means that we can receive family reunification under EU laws, as we originally sought, rather than the more cumbersome Danish laws."


Christensen also wrote that due to the back-up at Udlændingestyrelsen last summer, which was officially attributed to "extraordinary services" after an investigation by the parliamentary ombudsman, means that those who were denied family reunification during that time can successfully appeal. 


Although Ralf Christensen was pleased by the decision, he still feels frustrated over the ordeal. 


"When applying for family reunification, the general procedure means that citizens have no chance of contesting the interpretation of Udlændingestyrelsen," Christensen told The Copenhagen Post. "There is no dialogue, so applicants simply have to wait for the verdict to be reached behind closed doors. This obviously makes applicants extremely vulnerable to changes in the interpretation of the law."


"The fact that apparently everyone appealing against the decisions of Udlændingestyrelsen during that period [regarding cases processed] under the EU law has won their appeal cases just underlines the absurdity of the bureaucracy," he added.  "This has been a huge waste of resources for all involved applicants as well as for the Justice Ministry, which has set aside valuable resources only to find out that Udlændingestyrelsen has been wasting everybody's time with yet another problematic hardening of the course against applicants. It's not only inhumane, it's also just plain unproductive for our country."


With the appeal in his favour, and the government's promise to invest 10.5 million kroner over the next two years to improve the handling of family reunification cases, Christensen is cautiously optimistic about the future. 


"It seems like things have changed for the better, since the interpretation of the family reunification under EU law has changed from what it was before the summer of 2012. That's the good news," he said. "The bad news is that Udlændingestyrelsen can zap back and forth between interpretations without any kind of responsibility towards the public."


As for Christensen's wife, Merih, the whole ordeal has been exhausting. 


"My tiredness outweighs my happiness with the result – at least for now," Merih Christensen said. "I know for sure that what one goes through doesn't mean anything to the people who are in charge of the system. Obviously they don't care, and they've never been on my side. That makes me feel like I'm in a fight. They challenge you through all kinds of obstacles, and if you manage to get through without leaving [the country], you feel very, very tired."  

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