The government introduced serious restrictions to asylum and migration laws and suspended an agreement with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, to accept refugees for resettlement. Procedural rules created delays for transgender people seeking legal gender recognition. A claim by Iraqis for torture against the Ministry of Defence was ruled admissible.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In January, Parliament amended the Aliens Act, restricting the right to family reunification. Individuals granted subsidiary protection status had to wait for three years before being eligible to apply for family reunification. In October, four Syrians who had been granted protection started legal action against the government, on the grounds that the amendments violated their right to family life.
In August, the UN Human Rights Committee criticized the amendments and raised concern about a further amendment to the Act which introduced the possibility of confiscating asylum-seekers’ assets as a contribution towards the costs of their reception. The same bill also included a provision which gave the executive power to suspend judicial oversight over the detention of migrants and asylum-seekers when the government considered there was a large influx of people to the country.
In June, the government introduced further restrictions to its “tolerated stay” regime, which applied to individuals it excluded from protection because they had committed a felony in Denmark or were believed to have committed war crimes or non-political crimes elsewhere, but who could not be deported to their country of origin as they faced a real risk of human rights violations there. The government declared its intention to make their stay “as intolerable as possible”. The new restrictions included compulsory overnight stay at Kærshovedgård centre, about 300km outside Copenhagen, to separate individuals from their families. Those who breached their “tolerated stay” obligations faced potential custodial sentences in regular prisons. At the end of the year, 68 people were on “tolerated stay”.
In October, the government deferred implementing the agreement with UNHCR to receive 500 refugees annually for resettlement from refugee camps around the world.
Discrimination – transgender people
Procedural rules set by the Danish Health Authority on access to hormone treatment and gender-affirming surgery unreasonably prolonged the gender recognition process for transgender people. The tests and questionnaires required focused on sexual conduct which many transgender people reported finding humiliating. Only one clinic was authorized to prescribe hormone treatment to transgender people. The Health Authority’s procedural guidelines for gender-affirming treatment were under review at the end of the year.
In May, the Parliament adopted a landmark resolution to end the pathologization of transgender identities as a “mental disorder” by the beginning of 2017.
Counter-terror and security
In August, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about Denmark’s overly broad definition of terrorism in the Criminal Code and about police powers to intercept communications which may result in mass surveillance. The Committee urged the government to conduct a comprehensive review of its counter-terrorism powers to ensure compliance with international human rights law.
Torture and other ill-treatment
In August, the Eastern High Court ruled admissible a civil damages lawsuit brought against the Ministry of Defence by 11 Iraqi nationals. They alleged they were tortured by Iraqi soldiers during a military operation run by Danish soldiers in Basra, Iraq, in 2004. A substantive hearing was expected to take place in 2017.