Government to act faster on children facing deportation

Justice minister and government parties rule that deportations can be put on hold as early as February

There may be renewed hope for Ripa, Sirapat, Phatteera, Sahro, and the many other children that have been deported or face the prospect of deportation.

In light of the many recent high-profile cases of children who have been threatened with being separated from their families and kicked out of Denmark, the government has now decided to speed up the process of relaxing the rules for family reunification regarding children.

?According to Berlingske newspaper, following a meeting last week between the immigration spokespersons from the Socialdemokraterne-Radikale-Socialistisk Folkeparti (SRSF) coalition parties and justice minister Morten Bødskov (S), children facing deportation will no longer have to wait until parliament adopts changes to family reunification law. Instead, they can see their deportations put on hold as early as February.

“I’m glad that we can probably suspend deportations as early as February, before the new legislation is adopted,” Zenia Stampe, R’s immigration spokesperson, told Berlingske. “This is a significant improvement compared to the old legislation, which we have been so frustrated with.”

SRSF, along with government support party Enhedslisten and the right-of-centre opposition party Liberal Alliance (LA), have agreed to soften the immigration rules – particularly the ones regarding family reunification for children. The government has indicated that its change to immigration rules – which it hyped as one of the tenets of its new governing policy – will be formulated by March.

While that’s sure to be welcome news for those who have been waiting for SRSF’s “new era, new politics, a new majority, and a new will” – as incoming social and immigration minister Karen Hækkerup (S) characterised the new government’s approach to immigration – to begin, any change will come too late for the nearly 800 children who were denied residency in Denmark under the tightened immigration policies of the previous Venstre-Konservative (VK) government and its far-right ally, Dansk Folkeparti (DF).

The Copenhagen Post has reported on many of these cases, including that of eight-year-old Ripa Ahmed, who faces deportation to Bangladesh despite having no-one there to care for her, and that of 13-year-old Sirapat Kamminsen, who was deported to Thailand in March, leaving his mother, step-father and half-brother behind in Denmark. Both were deemed to be “incapable of integrating”.

An appeal in SirapatÂ’s case was denied in November and the boy remains in Thailand, living with a school teacher who took him in. AhmedÂ’s father appealed her deportation and the family is still awaiting a final judgement.

“I’m very sorry that some children have fallen into the gap that was created between when we came to power and when we will have changed the law,” Stampe told Berlingske. “But now we are making that gap substantially smaller.”

EnhedslistenÂ’s Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen said that while the latest agreement is a sign of progress, the party disagrees with SRSFÂ’s conclusion that deportation cases canÂ’t be suspended immediately.

“As the rules stand today,  deportations are not based on a real assessment of the children and their situations,” Schmidt-Nielsen told Berlingske. “I doubt that this practice lives up to the UN convention on childrenÂ’s rights.”

Indeed, DenmarkÂ’s approach to childrenÂ’s immigration has frequently run afoul of international law.
In 2009, in direct violation of UN convention, the Immigration Service denied citizenship to hundreds of eligible stateless youth born to refugees in Denmark. That scandal cost Birthe Rønn Hornbech her job as immigration minister.

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that in 2005 Denmark infringed on the human rights of Sahro Osman, a young Somali woman raised in Denmark who spent two years of her early teens in Somalia. When she was ready to return to Denmark, authorities refused to let her come back,  saying she was no longer able to be integrated into Danish society. The court ruled that the Immigration Service had infringed on OsmanÂ’s human rights and the state was forced to pay her 150,000 kroner in compensation and reinstate her residency.

Seventy-five cases similar to Osman’s were identified, but the then-immigration minister Søren Pind (V) argued that it was unfeasible to reopen them.

Bødskov suggested earlier this month that reopening the cases would be a Pandora’s Box, while SF’s civil rights spokesperson, Anne Baastrup, added that the government did not dare open them “because of the risk that there are many more cases where wrong judgments were made”.

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