Human Rights Commissioner Weighs in on Denmark

On July 11, 2004, a report on the human rights situation in Denmark by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles, to the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly was made public. In his report, Mr Gil-Robles highlighted several issues of concern with respect to ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and also devoted specific attention to the situation of Roma. As regards the situation of Roma specifically, Mr Gil-Robles was, "particularly concerned […] to hear of difficulties faced by Roma children in accessing education. My attention was drawn in particular to the situation in Elsinore Municipality, where there are reportedly special Roma-classes, which are defined in the municipality's report as classes for 'Roma pupils who cannot be in a normal class or in a special class'." According to Mr Gil-Robles,

"Such classes give rise to three problems. Firstly, I find it difficult to understand, why those Roma children, who are in need of special education, cannot be placed in the regular classes offering special education referred to above, and receive an education better tailored to their needs. Such segregated classes give rise to serious doubts as to the equality of access to quality education. It is, secondly, of evident concern, that part of the criteria for the placement of children in such classes is their ethnic background. Such segregation may lead to Roma children with no special needs having to attend these classes, with a curriculum inferior to regular classes, with inevitably detrimental effects for their prospects for future education and employment. Thirdly, such a policy is very likely to increase the exclusion of the Roma children from the mainstream society. I therefore strongly encourage that alternative solutions be considered."

On immigration, refugees and asylum-seekers, issues of particular concern given the high number of Romani immigrants and asylum-seekers in the country, Mr Gil-Robles found that "the majority of the legislative amendments relating to immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers are of restrictive nature that risk polarizing this issue still further and, in certain cases, running counter to efforts to promote greater integration." He further found that "the lack of clarity of the Aliens Act, and the frequency of the amendments, risk jeopardising the principle of legal certainty, and make it difficult for the persons concerned to make sustainable plans for their future. Some of the provisions […] may, moreover, prejudice the effective enjoyment of certain rights guaranteed in the European Convention of Human Rights and other international treaties." Under the 2002 Aliens Act, the right to family reunification was replaced by the right to a residence permit for the purpose of family reunification with a person living in Denmark. A residence permit will only be granted after both parties reach 24 years of age (except in exceptional circumstances); places certain economic requirements on the family; and provides that the spouses' aggregate ties with Denmark be stronger than their aggregate ties with another country. Mr Gil-Robles found, "The requirement that the spouses' aggregate ties with Denmark are stronger than those with another country, hits immigrants and second-generation immigrants particularly hard, including those who have lived in Denmark for most of their lives and have become well integrated in society." In this respect, he also expressed concern that, "the legislation treats in a different manner Danish citizens depending on the period during which the person has held citizenship."

The full text of Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles’ report is available on the Internet at: www.coe.int.

(ERRC)

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