Editorial | Stop deporting widows and children

When laws are broken, it should be up to parliament to fix them permanently, not just when the media draws attention to individual cases

Among immigrants who find themselves unintended victims of immigration laws, it is no secret that the best thing you can do is to get the media to take up your case. 


Case in point: the recent decision by the Justice Ministry to overturn the deportation of a Suthida Nielsen and her seven-year-old daughter, Im, to their native Thailand after the death of Nielsen’s husband. 

In that instance, media pressure and local community support in favour of the pair staying in Denmark combined to form an irresistible force that led to parliament’s decision. This is perhaps one of the more dramatic instances, but cases like these are not rare. 


The process has, in fact, become so commonplace that in some cases a simple journalist’s request for the Immigration Service to turn over information has been enough for a decision to be changed. 


Unfortunately, even with the constant stream of cases making their way to the media, over 1,000 children have been denied residency since 2005. Many of them have been sent ‘home’ to countries where they have never lived.


If lawmakers fear the public backlash caused by the deportation of widows and children, the best thing to do would be to change the law to make sure that it doesn’t happen in the first place. Doing so would save these families the grief of being forced to leave their home or be separated from their families. For lawmakers, it means not having to duck for cover each time the media takes up an immigrant’s cause.


In the days leading up to the deportation of Suthida and Im Nielsen, the justice minister, Morten Bødskov, agreed that the decision was unfair, but refused to step in, arguing that it had been made by the book. We argue that if you agree that the book is wrong, then you need to change the book. Anything else is cowardice or indifference. 


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It is fair to argue that political realities may prevent new legislation from being passed. But in the Nielsens’ case, six of parliament’s eight parties voted in favour of passing the law to allow them to return to Denmark (only the anti-immigration Dansk Folkeparti voted against). Such consensus – especially in immigration issues – is rare in parliament and should be taken as a sign that there is clear support for reforming immigration laws.


The previous government is most closely associated with the process of tightening immigration legislation, which involved 64 changes over the course of ten years. That process, however, began in the late 1990s under a Socialdemokraterne government. It would only be fitting if the current reform-minded Socialdemokraterne government looked at ways the immigration laws could live up to its election pledge of a “new era” for immigration laws.