Integration no longer a criteria for accepting refugees

Denmark will no longer choose its 500 annual “quota refugees” from the UN based on their chances at integration

Refugees coming to Denmark through the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, will no longer be selected according to their ability to integrate into the Danish society.

Since 1989, Denmark has selected 500 so-called ‘quota refugees’ for resettlement in Denmark from a list drawn up by the UNHCR.

The refugees are selected by the Danish Refugee Council and the government’s Immigration Service on visits to countries where the refugees live.

Integration criteria
In 2005, the former government, led by Venstre and Konservative and supported by Dansk Folkeparti, introduced criteria that gives preferential treatment to refugees who stand a better chance of integrating into society.

The current government promised to abolish this criteria when it took power in 2011 and included it in the law catalogue for the coming parliamentary year, to the satisfaction of MP Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen (Enhedslisten).

”I think we obviously need to change the law back to the way it was before the former government changed it so that the focus is protecting the people who have the most need for it,” Schmidt-Nielsen told Politiken. “I think it’s obvious that when we choose UN refugees that we choose them with the greatest need for protection.”


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Concern over new criteria
Schmidt-Nielsen added that she was concerned that the government may simply replace the integration clause with other criteria that divert the focus from helping those most at need.

Her fear is based on a statement by the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), in May in which he said that “there was a need to consider whether the integration criteria […] ought to be replaced by other criteria.”

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Eva Singer, the head of asylum at the Danish Refugee Council, said she was pleased that the government wanted to change the rules and hoped that they would be replaced with something more “sensible”.

Protection should be focus
“Either by completely abolishing the criteria or establishing new criteria, the hope is that the government recognises that the goal is protecting refugees who can’t stay where they are,” Singer told Politiken.

The new criteria may affect  the number of refugees from Syria who are granted protection in Denmark. The UNHCR estimates that around two million Syrians have fled violence since the start of the civil war in 2011. 

Click here to visit the Immigration Service website and read more about UN quota refugees.