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Article Denmark: Media Report Prompts Review of Asylum Procedures

(July 18, 2011) A July 10, 2011, news story led the Ministry of Refugee, Immigration, and Integration Affairs of Denmark to review the implementation of its procedures for interviewing those seeking asylum. AVISEN.DK published a series of articles that other newspapers in the country repeated, claiming that the government was using information obtained illegally by the police for decisions on granting asylum. The government and other newspapers, including the COPENHAGEN POST, found the claims to be unsubstantiated. (Peter Stanners, The Asylum Scandal That Wasn't, THE COPENHAGEN POST (July 14, 2011).)

Following the press reports, the Immigration Service, which is a part of the Ministry, representatives of the police, and the Danish Refugee Council held a meeting on July 12, to review implementation of the regulations. Under a 1995 Danish asylum regulation, when the police interview people seeking asylum, they are restricted to asking basic questions, as to name, nationality, and method of entering the country. They are, however, instructed to note any statements made declaring reasons for seeking asylum. It is the Immigration Service that later meets with the asylum seekers to investigate in detail their motives and to determine if their requests should be granted. The decisions are based on the applicants' written and oral statements and on the authorities' knowledge of conditions in the country of origin. (Id.; see also Application for Asylum, NEW TO DENMARK.DK & Danish Refugee Council website (both last visited July 15, 2011).)

The AVIDSEN.DK articles had claimed that police were questioning asylum seekers about their motives at the time of the initial interview. The July 10 report alleged that when applicants gave one story about their reasons for entering Denmark to police and a different one to the Immigration Service, they were denied asylum as refugees. The Immigration Service found that this had not happened. A spokesperson for the Service, Jakob Dam Glynstrup, stated, “[i]t is not possible that the overall assessment of an asylum claim can have a negative turnout based solely on what the candidate told the police as their motivation.” (Stanners, supra.)

Speaking after the recent meeting, Andreas Kamm of the Danish Refugee Council said:

We agreed on the legislation and the regulations – that the police should not enter into a deep interview about individuals' motives for asylum, but simply try and determine that they are in fact dealing with an asylum seeker. … It's very uncomfortable for asylum seekers to be confronted by police so it was decided in the mid 90's to get lawyers to conduct the interviews instead. Employees in the immigration service now have all the skills to conduct these interviews because they know about the countries and the minorities within these countries. (Id.)

The Director for Asylum and Family Reunification of the Immigration Service, Anni Fode, stated that agreement had been reached that “the police may briefly ask the asylum seeker their [sic] reasons for seeking asylum which should be noted.” (Id.)

One additional outcome of the meeting was the decision to hold regular discussions between the three organizations to raise issues regarding the asylum process. (Id.)

According to the Danish government website NEW TO DENMARK, in 2008 the Immigration Service considered 1,042 applications for asylum and granted asylum to about half of the applicants. (Asylum, NEW TO DENMARK.DK (last visited July 14, 2011).)

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