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24 April 2020 – Denmark

The Covid-19 pandemic has particularly affected refugees and migrants in Denmark – a country that has pursued increasingly restrictive immigration and asylum policies in recent years. Reports indicate that all integration programmes have been put on hold and language schools are closed. (Although the country has now tentatively started to ease its lockdown restrictions, these do not yet appear to have been restarted.)

Increasing the vulnerability of migrants is the fact that to get a permanent residence permit a person has to hold a full-time job for a certain period of time, but the crisis has made this nearly impossible and the government appears unwilling to ease this policy. According to a 6 April update on the European Commission’s Web Site on Integration, “One of the requirements to get a permanent residence permit is holding a full-time job for a certain period, including at the time of the decision. A large number of applicants have now lost their jobs due to social distancing measures, but the minister of integration says no special considerations will be taken.”

Despite the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner call for member states to release migrants and asylum seekers in detention due to the crisis, Danish authorities have thus far refused to do so. According to the Minister of Integration, with returns now impossible and high risks of infection in closed facilities, any decision to release detainees would be up to the courts. Even in the midst of the pandemic, meanwhile, the Ministry of Immigration and Integration announced the launch of a new return office – the “Return Travel Agency” – which aims to increase deportations of people who lack valid visas and residency permits. (This announcement, however, is not a response to Covid-19.)

The Danish Refugee Council has set up a new hotline which will answer questions about the coronavirus in 25 languages. This line was set up in response to the need for information for inhabitants who are not fluent in Danish.