Im-law deemed a detriment to children’s’ welfare

The law that was supposed to protect children looks increasingly restrictive

When all the political parties, with the exception of the anti-immigration Dansk Folkeparti, banded together in November to make a law change that would allow the seven-year-old Thai girl Im Nielsen to stay in Denmark, the focus was ostensibly on the wellbeing of Im and other children in her situation.

But the law proposal that the Justice Ministry has sent to hearing has made the welfare of children a secondary priority, child-welfare organisations told Information newspaper.

According to the proposal, if a foreign child’s Danish parent dies, as was the case with Im Nielsen, the other parent’s ability to integrate into Denmark is essential to whether the child is permitted to stay, and is valued above considerations for the child's well-being.

READ MORE: Special law saves Thai girl but hundreds aren't so lucky

Failing the children
The proposal states that the revocation of the bereaved parent's resident permit – and thus the child’s as well – can be halted if “the foreigner has demonstrated a willingness and ability to integrate into this country”.

Inger Neufeld, a spokesperson from the child welfare organisation Red Barnet, criticised the wording of the law, which she says fails less fortunate children.

“It doesn’t make sense to have a law like this which only caters to the children whose parents have the resources to be integrated,” Neufeld said. “We risk letting down the children who may need our help the most.”

READ MORE: 7-year-old deported after losing immigration battle

Different to the debate
Im and her mother were sent back to Thailand after Im’s Danish stepfather died of cancer and the immigration authorities ruled that the family had lost their legal ties to Denmark.

Jens Vedsted-Hansen, a professor of law at Aarhus University, said that the law falls short.

“You can get the feeling that the purpose is to limit the change of practice to those instances where the bereaved parent is particularly integrated into the Danish society,” Vedsted-Hansen said. “That’s not quite the impression one could get from the debate concerning Im four weeks ago.”

READ MORE: Still Adjusting | Nothing ever changes

No support for Enhedslisten
Enhedslisten's Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen said that she tried to appeal for a change to the proposal, but her plea was met with little support from other parties.

“It’s completely wrong that the law emphasizes the parent's ability and willingness to integrate and not the welfare of the child,” Schmidt-Nielsen said. “I brought it up with [the former justice minister] Morten Bødskov but there was no backing from the other parties to make the children’s welfare the essential component.”

The law is on a fast track through parliament and could be in place as early as February, two months before expected.

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