Spending our lives together

The Copenhagen Post 15 - 21 August 2008

The EU court's recent decision about family reunifications has thrown the Danish government into a political crisis, and it has led some right wing politicians to warn that Denmark will be flooded with emigrants from non-Western countries.

  This is in spite of the fairly limited consequences of the recent decision. It means that a EU citizen who work or study in Denmark can live with his or her spouse and children who are non-EU citizens in Denmark without having to ask the authorities for permission. It is a substantial advantage for EU citizens with non-EU dependents who shall relocate to Denmark, but it will only affect a small number of Danish citizens

Earlier this summer it was revealed that the EU court had made another decision that affects a larger number of Danish citizens. When a Danish citizen work and live just a few weeks with his or her non-EU dependents in another EU country, they earn the right to live together in Denmark without fulfilling the strict Danish rules for family reunification.

  However, even that ruling will probably not lead to a substantial increase in the number of non-EU spouses and children who immigrate to Denmark. The reason is that the strict Danish rules have been surprisingly ineffective.

  The government has argued that the rules in particular should prevent forced marriages. However, it has not been shown that the rules prevent forced marriages, or that they reduce the number of marriages between children of immigrants and spouses from the area where their families originated.

  The Danish government wants in particular to reduce the immigration of family members from non-Western countries, which the authorities define as the rest of the world with the exception of Western Europe and a few English-speaking countries.

  From 2001 to 2007 the number of family members from non-Western countries who were given residence permits for family reunification was reduced from 9,749 to 3,808. The reduction looks impressive, but it is largely because of a drop in the number of refugees coming to Denmark and a subsequent drop in their applications for family reunifications. When family members to refugees are subtracted, the figure for 2007 is only 825 lower than the figure for 2001.

  We have to take into account that the number of family members being granted reunification increased during the nineties. When we take that into account, the tightening of the rules for family reunification has probably reduced the number of family reunifications in 2007 with about 1,700. We can further estimate from the official statistics that this figure consists of about 1,400 spouses and 300 children.

  If we take into account couples who wait until they are old enough to apply for family reunification, couples who presently are living in Sweden and who later may return to Denmark, and non-EU spouses who apply for work or study permits in Denmark instead of for family reunification, it is possible that the strict Danish reunification rules in reality only has reduced the immigration of spouses from non-Western countries with a few hundred.

  It is therefore unlikely that the EU-court rulings and a relaxation of the strict Danish rules for family reunification will lead to a flood of family members from non-Western countries who wants to enter Denmark.  There may be a brief increase in the numbers of family reunifications when some couples decide to return from Sweden as soon as possible.

We can also observe how the Danish legislation that encourages Danes to study abroad and more foreign citizens to work or study in Denmark, increases the number of family reunifications. More Danes than ever before have today the opportunity to meet a foreign partner and to decide that he or she is the love of their life.