Six-year old’s family reunification case to set legal precedent

The Western High Court will rule whether a Danish man can claim family reunification for children that he is not biologically related to and hasn’t formally adopted

The fate of a six-year-old Vietnamese boy will set a legal precedent when the Western High Court rules on his Danish stepfather's application for family reunification.

Fimm Na Thiban was only months old when he moved to Denmark together with his ten-year-old sister and biological mother, Noppore Na Thiban, after she married her Danish husband, Ole Heegaard.

Noppore and Heegaard subsequently divorced and she moved to Thailand leaving Fimm and his sister in Denmark with Heegaard, who has acted as Fimm's father for as long as the child can remember.

Speaking to TV2 News, Heegaard's ex-wife stated that she wanted the boy to remain with Heegaard.

"I want him to stay with Ole," Noppore said. "He has a better future in Denmark than if he stayed with me in Thailand. He is 100 percent better connected to his father than to me."

Heegaard applied for family reunification for the two children but the immigration service, Udlændingestyrelsen, rejected the application and demanded that the two children leave the country by 10 December 2012.

Heegaard appealed, and Kolding City Court ruled on February 6 that the children could be granted family reunification despite the fact that they are neither Heegaard's biological children nor have they been formally adopted by him.

The case has now been appealed by the government’s independent legal advisers, Kammeradvokaten, who will challenge the case in the Western High Court.

How the court rules may end up affecting many other families in similar cases. According to Berlingske, the decision to appeal the case was actually made by the new immigration complaints committee, Udlændingenævnet, who asked Kammeradvokaten to take up the case in order to set a legal precedent.

“Udlændingenævnet has asked  Kammeradvokaten to appeal Kolding City Court’s verdict on 6 February 2013 to the Western High Court because Udlændingenævnet wants a precedent to be set regarding the extent to which a person can claim family reunification with children that they are neither biologically related to nor have adopted,” Udlændingenævnet wrote in a comment to Berlingske.

Udlændingenævnet opened its doors at the beginning of the year in order to process complaints from foreigners unhappy with applications that are rejected by Udlændingestyrelsen, and the Agency for Labour Retention and International Recruitment.

Udlændingenævnet was established following a deal struck by the government last year together with far-left support party Enhedslisten and opposition party Liberal Alliance that made it harder for the Udlændingestyrelsen to deport small children on the grounds that they were deemed unable to integrate. The new commission was also established in order to give families a better facility to lodge complaints about rejected immigration applications.

The deal was made following a string of cases in which young children were rejected family reunification and in some cases would have had to leave their parents behind in Denmark.

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