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Denmark: Righting of Mistakes in Denial of Citizenship to Eligible Stateless Persons

(Feb. 24, 2011) It was reported on February 15, 2011, that more than 400 young stateless persons in Denmark had been unaware of their right to Danish citizenship under two United Nations Conventions, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. There has been heated debate in Denmark recently over illegal rejections of applications for citizenship received by a number of stateless Palestinians during the period 2004-2010, a matter brought to light by newspaper disclosures in January. Since 1999, citizenship applications from persons eligible under the Conventions have been rejected and the Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs (MORIIA), and MORIIA had failed to inform the young people of their rights. (Julian Isherwood, Citizenship Hidden for 460 Young People,POLITIKEN.DK (Feb. 15, 2011),
; Stateless May Get Passports, POLITIKEN.DK (Feb. 18, 2011),
; Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons & Convention on the Rights of the Child, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights website, &, respectively (both last visited Feb. 22, 2011).)

Birthe Rønn Hornbech, head of the MORIIA, had admitted a year ago that the Ministry had made a mistake, but it was not until January 2011 that it took action to inform stateless persons under the age of 21 of their eligibility for citizenship under the two Conventions. (Isherwood, supra.) The Minister wrote a letter “to between 400 and 500 stateless young people and adults who have been born in Denmark but who have either had their applications for citizenship rejected or were unaware they were eligible,” advising them to apply for Danish citizenship. (Stateless May Get Passports, supra.) Although the Convention protections cease to apply at the age of 21, because of the Ministry's protracted mishandling of the matter, about 100 persons above that age will also be contacted. (Id.)

The Ministry also issued two press releases in January 2011 on the subject of statelessness. One of them, issued on January 11, noted that in December 2010 the Parliament passed a bill granting citizenship to 1,736 foreigners, including 24 stateless Palestinians whose previous applications for Danish citizenship had been mistakenly rejected. It further notes that another three Palestinians may be granted citizenship under a similar bill expected to be tabled in Parliament in April. (Press Release, Integrationsministeren rydder op i sager om indfødsret til statsløse (Jan. 14, 2011),
; Press Release, Integrationsministeren: Statsløse får dansk indfødsret (Jan. 11, 2011),
[both on New to The Official Portal for Foreigners and Integration website]; see also Stateless Palestinians Wrongfully Denied Citizenship, ONLY IN DENMARK (Jan. 11, 2011),