Rights of failed deportees heard at Supreme Court

An Iranian man argues that the strict living conditions he is forced to abide by violate his human rights

The strict restrictions on the movements and living conditions of foreigners who cannot be deported, despite being sentenced to expulsion, may have to be changed following the verdict of a case that started today in the Supreme Court.

The case concerns 41-year-old Elias Karkavandi from Iran, who was placed under a regime called tålt ophold after being released from prison following a 16-month sentence he served for acting as a police lookout for drug dealers in Christiania.

Tålt ophold is a regime that individuals have to live under if they cannot be deported despite the wish of the Immigration Service. Failed asylum seekers and individuals suspected of committing war crimes tend to end up under the regime, in which they are kept in close contact with the police while also having their freedom of movement severely limited.

These rules were tightened by the former Venstre-Konservative government in 2008 after it was discovered that one of the three men suspected of planning to kill the Mohammed cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, had travelled to within ten minutes of the artist’s home in Aarhus while visiting family, despite living under tålt ophold.

Karkavandi was released from prison in 2007 but could not be deported after a ruling by the government’s refugee board, Flygtningenævnet, found that as a Christian, Karkavandi may be executed if he returned to Iran.

As a result of the tightened rules, Karkavandi cannot work and cannot cook his own food at Sandholm Asylum Centre in north Zealand, where he must sleep in a shared dormitory with four other men. He is given 841 kroner of pocket money to live off every month and must report to the police several times a week.

With Karkavandi looking to spend the rest of his years living under these strict conditions, he and his lawyers have taken the case to the Supreme Court, alleging that his human rights are not being respected.

The case is being made in light of discoveries made by Information newspaper that even though the tightened regulation for tålt ophold were first designed to only apply to individuals who were deemed to be a threat to the state – such as the three men involved in the Westergaard plot – the rules soon started to apply to all individuals on tålt ophold, even if they were not deemed a threat.

Karkavandi’s lawyer, Christian Dahlager, argues that his client does not pose any threat and that there are other ways for authorities to keep a close eye on him.

“All that is needed is that the police are able to find him should they, for example, find it possible to send him back to Iran, and this could be satisfied by allowing Karkavandi to live with his girlfriend and report to a local police station,” Dahlager told Information.

The case has made it to the Supreme Court after the High Court ruled that the limits of freedom placed on Karkavandi were proportional and did not break his human rights.

The case is significant as the Supreme Court's verdict could set a precedent for the 35 other foreigners currently living under tålt ophold.

According to Anders Henriksen, a law professor at the University of Copenhagen, it may even be the most important precedent case seen by the Supreme Court in the past decade.

“If the court find that the tightening of his living conditions were created in order to protect the security of the state, then they will have to dismiss the new tightened regulations to immigration law that the former government introduced in 2008,” Henriksen told Politiken newspaper.

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