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Danish love refugees flee to Malmö

The Local · 14 Sep 2011, 08:58

Published: 14 Sep 2011 08:58 GMT+02:00

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Every morning, Lise* leaves her husband and two small children, crossing the Øresund bridge from Malmö on her way to work. Every evening, she returns: from her home country to her adopted one, where she and her family are legally able to live together.

Due to Denmark’s immigration laws, which have tightened substantially in the past year, Lise was not able to bring her husband, who is from an African country, to Denmark. They chose not to apply for family reunification, she says, choosing instead to live in Sweden for the past three years.

“We could not meet the requirements of the Danish immigration authorities, she says. Because of her husband’s country of birth, “he could not even get a tourist visa to Denmark”.

In Sweden, Lise can live as an EU citizen and her husband was easily granted residency.

“We got family re-unification without any problems,” she says.

Her husband studies at university, and volunteers in a group to help other newcomers. They’ve been happy in Sweden, she says.

“We feel we have been very, very welcomed here, by the immigration system, the medical system, and people on the street. There’s a very different atmosphere in Sweden.”

In 2002, Denmark’s tightened family reunification laws, slated to prevent arranged marriages by immigrants in the country and potential spouses abroad, were introduced. Danes with non-EU spouses have since moved to Sweden, largely Malmö, in droves.

It is impossible to know the exact number of couples living in the city for this reason, says Anders Weström, an expert at the Swedish Migration Board in Malmö. Over 9,000 Danes were known to be living in the city in January 2010, though Danes are not required to register with local authorities, and are not registered as attached to their partners. Many Danes also move to Malmö because of other reasons, including the lower cost of living. But the existence of such couples are well known.

“All we can say,” says Weström, “is at the migration board in Malmö, we have most of these cases.”

Lars Kynau Hansen, the head of the Danish advocacy organization Marriage without Borders, says that with the substantial tightening of the policy in the past year, he expects that the migration of Danes with foreign spouses will continue.

The original policy required both members of the couple to be over 24, along with bank-backed collateral and rules on the use of social services by the Danish spouse.

In November 2010, an immigration and Danish language test was introduced, which a spouse must pass within three months of arrival (immigrants from countries such as the US and Canada are exempt).

In January, the application fee increased by almost six times, to just under 6000 Danish kronor ($1,157). This past July, a “points system” was introduced, which takes into account language, work experience and education, and the application fee was increased again.

The required bank-backed collateral was increased from 63,400 to 100,000 Danish kronor, and the “attachment requirement” was sharpened. This also requires a couple to demonstrate a stronger combined attachment to Denmark than any other country, including visits to the country, the residence of friends or family, and some competency in Danish.

“Somewhat to our surprise, already the changes on November 15th 2010 and January 1st 2011 seem to have had a greatly discouraging effect on possible applicants,” says Hansen, though the effects of the July changes are not yet known.

The number of applicants fell by 45 percent in the first four months of 2011, he says, though last year had the largest number of both applicants and approvals for residency.

The rapid tightening of the policy has often been attributed to the influence of the Dansk Folkeparti (the Danish People’s Party), a far-right party with a strict immigration platform. The party, which is currently the third largest in the Danish parliament, has been accused of leveraging political support for tighter immigration policies, including reviving border controls this summer.

Story continues below…

The Danish election, scheduled for September 15th, could change the government from the current Liberal-Conservative coalition. The opposition has pledged to roll back the changes from July, he says, but not those before. As a result, Hansen says the benefits of a new government would be limited for the Malmö couples.

“So you could say that the situation would probably change from extremely bad to not quite so bad,” he says. “But there will still be a steady flow of Danes moving to Sweden because of the Danish rules for family reunification.”

Though they feel welcome in Sweden, Lise says she and her husband would like to move to Denmark before their young children reach school age. It’s difficult for them to cope with four languages, including Swedish, Danish, English, and her husband’s language, she says.

She says she hopes that if a new government is in power, the rules will change. But she’s not holding her breath. Immigrants have become a political issue in the country, and without a personal connection, she says many Danes don’t know what the rules mean for families like hers.

“I don’t think there’s a realization of what it does to people,” she says.

*Not her real name. She and her husband expressed a wish to remain anonymous.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:47 September 14, 2011 by securityguy
Good for you Denmark!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sweden should do the same!!
11:58 September 14, 2011 by godnatt
Good work, Denmark

Of course in the meantime, neither is a citizen and he's here in Sweden "studying" for free on the Swedish taxpayer's dime and not working of course...
12:37 September 14, 2011 by zooeden
At least is a story about love Ladies and gentlemen!!!
13:29 September 14, 2011 by matona1
what kind of law do u expect from drunkerd law makers,they make law as if they them self dont travel out of denmark,home is where you are accepted and welcome,i will risk my life to protect malmo,any time any day any where
13:52 September 14, 2011 by RobinHood

I challenge you to a duel to the death. If you win, you can have my car. If I win, I will nuke Malmö.
18:21 September 14, 2011 by rls976
Don't backtrack, Denmark!
18:38 September 14, 2011 by crocadoodledoo
I am a honest well-to-do Indian guy with a PhD in applied physics, and my wife (who is a doctor) is Danish. These family reunification rules appear very repugnant and unwelcoming to me. I have no desire to immigrate to denmark as such but I am in a situation where I have to, because my wife wants me to be there. The family reunification rules are very racist to say the least. I have no problems giving a danish exam to get the permit there along with the collateral, but w#¤% t¤% f#¤% is the rule that citizens of US,UK, Canada, australia and Japan are exempt ?!...i fail to understand why is there so much hatred in the minds of the Danish law-making authorities against immigrants in general. If you have a problem against some anti-social elements who also happen to be immigrants, why dont you employ officers at the embassy who can interview couples before okaying their permits like most other countries. A friend of mine told me I can even apply under the Danish green card scheme to circumvent all these obstacles since I qualify to be called a highly skilled immigrant. On some researching abt danish green cards, one can find that they grant you a permit alright, but with no medical or state benefits. So, in short, they'll take taxes from you (if you find a job there in denmark where the employer actually covers the health insurance for u) but not give you any services. Now, all those who support this stupid Danish folkparti (due to which these insane rules are in place), please tell me why will skilled immigrants who can actually contribute to the society by creating jobs etc prefer immigrating to denmark ?
18:55 September 14, 2011 by OgierLeDanois
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
20:04 September 14, 2011 by Tanskalainen
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
20:39 September 14, 2011 by jostein

Your lack of understanding and respect for the genuine concern of the danish people in face of the immigration onslaught tells me Denmark would do better without you.
20:44 September 14, 2011 by Twiceshy
Hitler would be happy today in Denmark.
20:51 September 14, 2011 by planet.sweden

Silly boy.
22:31 September 14, 2011 by Chickybee
It's funny how the flow of refugees is only ever one way.

Real refugees should be welcomed but why can't they find refuge in many of the Muslim countries they come from?
13:32 September 15, 2011 by crocadoodledoo
@jostein: please educate me as to what is in my comment for you to say i lack respect and understanding for the 'genuine concern' of danes. I have a few danish friends and even they dont seem to understand the insane rules their govt has subjected them to, incase they decide to marry/cohabit with some non EU person. if you are commenting just to pick up a fight, then i just wish you well and hope you never encounter a situation like me where you are forced to goto a place where you are not really welcome at the outset.
13:44 September 15, 2011 by Look

Israel is exempt form the Danish language test also.
15:29 September 15, 2011 by crocadoodledoo
@look.. i have nothing against this danish language exam if it is made compulsary for all. anyway, if one immigrates to a new country, he or she has to learn the language and assimilate with the local culture for a better life. Danish people are lucky that nobody discriminated against them when their country was hit hard by problems back in the late 1800s when many escaped to the US for better prospects. If their policies continue to be like this, there will be a time in the future when their own people will have to bite the discrimination bullet.
18:51 September 16, 2011 by me_i_sverige
@jostein: Genuine concern to the Danish people or to the right wing Danish Folkparty? How can you tell they are facing onslaught from immigrants who happen to be about 4% of the population? Right to stay should be judged on the basis of case-by-case not by someone's ethnicity or nationality. I believe you are the one who believe in Jante's law or a lazy right winger who loves to blame all of his problem to immigrants.
13:09 September 17, 2011 by Roffe
All this immigration nonsense goin on in Denmark will eventually hurt them. And let me just add how the danes are becoming more and more inbreed.

More immigrants to Sweden please!!
20:02 September 17, 2011 by Iraniboy
Well Danes voted NO to right wing populistic governance after 10 years!
09:17 September 18, 2011 by calebian22
There is nothing wrong with a points system. Love should count, but it shouldn't be the sole basis for reunification. If the newcomer doesn't bring something to the table that is somehow an asset or at least not a detriment to the host country, too bad.

The People's Party lost their King maker status but they only lost one parliamentary seat. The red greens will do what the red greens always do which is implement policy that is self serving and not in the interest of the country. The next election will see the pendulum swing back.
21:40 September 18, 2011 by Thunder Horse
Danish immigration policy makers can better say, "Go out of Denmark if you want to have a non-European family member (they can't say NO to any EU citizen because of the EU laws and unfortunately all the bad effects take place over those who are from other parts of the world. Some are lucky that their family member is from US, AUS or such first world and weather-friendly countries so they can easily move there) ". I strongly disagree with these following immigration laws:

1. 18 years old Dane is old enough to take his/her decision of choosing life partner. It may be 21 like some other Asian countries but it doesn't have any strong reason of raising it to 24 or 28 what they are thinking about right now.

2. Relationship doesn't grow up with any predefined condition that someone have to know the total history of Denmark or he/she must pass the danish language test within 3 months of entering Denmark. Well, it is must to know the language better in order to get integrated with Danes but right now this is using as a kind of protector.

3. Making an extra burden of 100,000 danish SEK of collateral money just enlarge new families worries and misery. It never helps protecting Danish people from proforma or forced marriage.

Moreover, Denmark is like all other Nordic countries with their social system and living standard. So what is the reason of having that much harder immigration laws than countries like Sweden, Norway or Finland... ?? No other EU country have such collateral funding law!

After reading my comment, most of the Dane's will think of shooting me .. I will just say to all Denmark... Live in another country with having risk of beloved's staying and far from your family, language and culture... Meet your relatives once or twice in a year.
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