Denmark reverses residence decisions for hundreds of Syrian refugees

A large number of refugees from Syria who had their asylum status in Denmark revoked have since seen those decisions overturned, according to official figures.

People in Denmark protest in April 2021 against repatriation of Syrian refugees.
People in Denmark protest in April 2021 against repatriation of Syrian refugees. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been informed that their residence permit was revoked or their application rejected since the Danish government determined conditions in the Damascus area had “improved.” 

However, in 2022, the Danish Refugee Appeals Board (Flygtningenævnet) has reversed the decision of the Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) in 71 percent of Syrian cases addressed this year and allowed the refugees to stay, according to data supplied by the former agency to newspaper Dagbladet Information.

Between January and May, the Appeals Board, which issues binding decisions when applicants appeal a determination from the Immigration Service, overturned Immigration’s decision in 54 out of 76 cases and granted continued residence permits. 

That represents an increase in the proportion of turnovers compared to December 2021, when 43 percent of decisions were successfully appealed.

At the time, Ib Hounsgaard Trabjerg, chairman of the Appeals Board, described the rate of reversal as too high — “not least for the sake of those people who find their residence permits revoked or refused, creating uncertainty about their situation,” he said.

In a written comment to Information, Danish Immigration Service deputy director Henrik Thomassen said that the agency closely adheres to Appeal Board practice. It also stays updated on background information relating to European Court of Human Rights verdicts.

“To the extent that principal guidelines can be drawn from this, we adapt our practices accordingly,” Thomassen wrote.

A lag of around six months between Immigration Agency and Appeals Board decisions can mean additional information is available at the time decisions may be reversed, he noted.

In January this year, then-immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye was berated at the EU parliament by all but the most right wing MEPs for the Danish government’s insistence that it was safe enough in the Damascus area to repatriate some Syrian refugees to the region.

The policy has led to the withdrawal of asylum status from many Syrians in Denmark, condemning them to stays in the country’s infamous departure or expulsion centres.


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Danish government to open office in Rwanda as asylum plan progresses

The Danish foreign ministry is to open an office in Rwandan capital Kigali. The government wants to open an offshore processing facility for refugees in the African country.

Danish government to open office in Rwanda as asylum plan progresses

Two diplomats are to be sent from Denmark to work in a new office in Kigali, Rwanda by the end of the year, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

The objective of the office will be to strengthen relations between the two countries, the ministry said.

“Denmark and Rwanda share a wish to help more refugees better than today and to fight irregular and life-threatening migration, including across the Mediterranean,” immigration minister Kaare Dybvad Bek said in the statement.

“Our shared goal is to reform the current, flawed asylum system and ensure a dignified and sustainable future for refugees and migrants. I am therefore pleased that we will soon be able to open an office in Rwanda,” he said.

In additional comments to news wire Ritzau, the minister said the new office “means we are going a step further in relation to strengthening our partnership with Rwanda with regard to opening a refugee centre.”

“I’m not saying this solves everything. But it is a step on the way to fulfilling the ambition which ensures we open a refugee centre. In relation to the agreement we have, this gives us new possibilities because we have a permanent location in the country,” he said.

Moving part of Denmark’s refugee system offshore to a non-EU country – confirmed in 2021 as Rwanda – is a long-term objective of Denmark’s Social Democratic government.

The plans entail Denmark sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, where their cases would be processed by Danish authorities, instead of allowing them to live in Denmark.

Negotiations between the two countries over the specifics of such an arrangement are ongoing.


A spokesperson from the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said in April that the agency “does not view the idea of outsourcing asylum, whether to Rwanda or another country, as a responsible or sustainable solution.”

Human rights organisations Amnesty International has previously criticised the Danish plan, saying it takes “responsibility-shifting of refugee protection by EU governments to a new low, and would set a dangerous precedent in Europe and globally”.

The minority government’s usual parliamentary allies, the centre-left Social Liberal party and left-wing Red Green Alliance, have both stated that they oppose the plan to process asylum seekers in Rwanda, news wire Ritzau reported.