Aarhus Airport accused of discrimination

The EU is looking into a discrimination case involving foreign travellers

A group of foreign travellers flying through Aarhus Airport have complained to the European Union after being told that their EU passports were not sufficient. Dimitris Xygalatas, a Greek national, was told that his EU passport was not enough to allow him on his flight and he was told that he had to show a second form of ID since he was not Danish. 


“I was told I would not be allowed to travel if I did not have a second form of ID,” Xygalatas told The Copenhagen Post. “Honestly, I find this insulting and a clearly discriminatory practice that severely hurts Denmark’s international profile.”


Xygalatas, along with a group of other foreigners who live in Denmark and claim they have faced discrimination at Aarhus Airport, has filed an official complaint to the European Commission, which is currently investigating the claims.


Adriana Alcina, a Spaniard, said that she experienced a similar situation when she flew through Aarhus on Feburary 3. She said that she had flown through Copenhagen Airport numerous times and had never been asked for additional ID there.


“I was told that at Aarhus Airport authorities require a second form of ID if you are not Danish,” she said. “I was told I would not be allowed to travel if I did not have other forms of ID on me. I also witnessed how they did the same with other foreigners travelling on the same flight. They even looked suspicious at my ID because my hair was different from how it is now. Overall, it was very humiliating and they completely violated my European rights.”


Alcina has complained to her embassy in Copenhagen and as well as to the EU. She has also contacted the Ministry of Justice, but has received no response from them. Panagiotis Mitkidis, a Greek citizen who has been living in Aarhus since 2008 and is working at Aarhus University as a researcher, reported that he was also asked to show additional ID.


“I was flying from Aarhus to London Stansted, on 15 January 2012 with Ryanair. At security, I was asked by an airport employee to present ‘a second form of photo ID’ other than my European Union passport, issued in Greece,” he said. “It is an obvious discriminatory and illegal case.”


Peter Niebuhr from the Foreign Ministry’s citizens’ service confirmed in an email to Xygalatas that “a foreign traveller may travel only on a valid passport,” but said the ministry was “not aware whether this rule is based on Danish law, or whether the airport staff in Aarhus were acting illegally”. Niebuhr referred Xygalatas to the Justice Ministry. The Copenhagen Post attempted on several occasions to get a response from the Justice Ministry, but at the time of going to press, they had not responded.


The European Commission took up the debate on March 12 and EU spokesman Matthew Newman said that the case was being looked into and that it seemed to be an isolated incident involving only Aarhus Airport.


“The national authority of EU countries cannot oblige any EU citizen to present both a passport and a national ID card,” Newman said. “We have no further info about other incidents taking place in Denmark or elsewhere in the EU. We are following up, but we do not have a legal analysis, as we need to collect more info on the case.”


Aarhus Airport general manager Ole Paaske told public broadcaster DR that although he is familiar with the situations involving the foreign travellers, he doesn’t think the airport is breaking any rules. He pointed specifically to cases involving flights to the United Kingdom.


“We have a responsibility to the English immigration services to make sure that the traveller has a valid travel document,” Paaske said. “A passport does suffice, but if there are further doubts, it can be necessary to ask for further identification.”


Paaske, who declined to comment to The Copenhagen Post, maintained to DR that the process also extends to Danes, but admitted that he was unaware that asking for extra ID is a breach in EU protocol. He added that he would speak with the British Embassy and the Justice Ministry about the issue.


Aarhus Airport saw nearly 600,000 passengers travel through its doors in 2011, up 5.3 percent from 2010.