Danes should not marry non-Danes

One year after the implementation of a new Danish immigration law, pressure is mounting on Danish Minister for Integration, Mr. Bertel Haarder to revise parts of a law approved by the Danish parliament in July last year, which prevents Danes who marry non-Danes abroad from returning to Denmark together.
      Jens Witthofft Nielsen, Secretary General of the association Danes Worldwide with 6.000 members around the world has strongly criticized the law for punishing Danes who live a major part of their active lives away from Denmark and happen to marry a non-Dane during those years.
      The crux of the matter is, that the immigration authorities have been instructed to refuse mixed couples applying for permission to move back to Denmark together if the couples affiliation to Denmark is estimated not to be stronger than to the country of their previous residence.
      “The current rules are unreasonable not least because it is impossible to find out what exactly one has to do to live up to the criteria of being sufficiently “affiliated” with Denmark,” Jens Witthoft Nielsen says.
      In Thailand, the Danish-Thai Chamber of Commerce has joined the rising criticism of the law.
      “Your wife is not welcome,” reads a headline on the chamber’s website www.dancham.or.th Then the article continues:
      “If your wife or husband is not Danish and you wish to return to Denmark to live, you will most likely be caught by the new Danish law on immigration from July 2002. There are already cases where a foreign spouse has been rejected entry when following the Danish citizen and children to Denmark. One example is a Danish woman whose foreign husband was refused entry when applying for a Danish residence permit. They have been married for 13 years and have two children. Both had already found jobs in Denmark prior to their arrival. The only reason given: they could not prove there was a stronger connection to Denmark than that of the foreign husband’s country. This new law makes it extremely difficult if not impossible to return if you have lived with your family outside of Denmark just for a a couple of years. ”
      The article refers readers to seek more information on the Danish web site http://www.dk-mor-i-udlandet.com and urges readers to supports the collection of signatories to a petition to the Minister of Integration, Mr. Bertel Haarder to revise the law. Thousands of Danes abroad have already signed this petition which is also supported by the association Danes Worldwide.
      Giving somewhat in to the pressure, Mr. Haarder in July promised to have a closer look at the law and submit a proposal for changes – if any were deemed necessary – before the end of the year.
      Mr. Haarder admits that he aready knew that the new law as well as the directives issued in November 2002 to the immigration authorities how they should administer the law would create problems for “a few people” but that he decided to wait and see if there would be any public reaction.
      “The success is, that it (the law) has worked exactly as we intended. We have effectively blocked the tragic cases of arranged marriages. Then we have a few highly publicised cases but they cannot be solved by treating old-Danes in a discriminating way compared to new-Danes,” the minister explained in one of the many interviews with him in the Danish press about the issue.
      According to Danes Worldwide, the “few cases” in fact amount to several hundred mixed Danish couples who have so far been denied re-entry to Denmark. The Danish citizen is allowed to return home, if he or she should so wish, but only without the spouse.
      Among the Danes living in South East Asia, the effect of the law has become one of the most frequently debated subjects over the past few months as the initially disregarded rumours turned out to be true. Many have personal reasons to worry that they may eventually not be allowed to return to Denmark with their non-Danish spouse after a number of active business years in the region. Others know of specific cases where their Danish friends have been forced to give up their attempt to move back to Denmark even though they had already signed an employment contract with a company back “home”.
      When evaluating the application of a mixed couple the Danish immigration authorities will among others investigate whether the couple speaks Danish together in their daily life. If not, it will count in negative direction.
      The authorities will also investigate whether the Dane has been accompanied by the spouse on every visit to Denmark over the years – if not, it is seen as another indication that the spouse is not sufficiently affiliated to Denmark.
      For the sceptical mind, who hesitates to believe that the Danish government would knowingly take such steps towards its own citizens, the full text of how the Danish immigration authorities have been instructed to administer the law by the Committee on Integration of the Danish Parliament is interesting reading. It is available – only for people who read Danish – on the website of the Danish Parliament ‘Folketinget’. The link is http://www.folketinget.dk/Samling/20021/udvbilag/UUI/Almdel_bilag106.htm

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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