UNHCR: Refugees should be assured that they will not be returned to unsafe situations

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, expresses concern about the debate on the so-called “paradigm shift” in Denmark.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, follows with concern the debate on the so-called paradigm shift in Danish immigration and asylum policy as presented in law proposal L140, currently being considered by the Danish Parliament.

It is correct that the international system for refugee protection is based on the obligation to provide protection only as long as it is needed. But refugees must also be assured that their refugee status will cease only when there is no longer any risk that they will be in danger when returning home.

“It cannot be the case that children, women and men who are recognized as refugees in Denmark, having fled war, violence or persecution, must live in an eternal fear of being sent home every time their residence permit is up for renewal. Such uncertainty can be detrimental to refugees’ ability to lead a normal life and adapt to Danish society,” says UNHCR’s Regional Representative in Northern Europe, Henrik M. Nordentoft.

In UNHCR’s view, the criteria and guidelines set out in the law in order to revoke a refugee’s residence permit are not sufficient and should be elaborated to provide the necessary clarity and legal certainty – both for the individual refugee and for the asylum authorities. In principle, it must be required that the revocation of a residence permit can only be initiated when very significant and persistent changes in the security conditions in the home country are present, so that it is no longer associated with any danger to return.

This will be the case, for example, in a situation in which an armed conflict is brought to end, and there is once again stability and security in the country – as well as clear signs of a normalization of daily life, including that refugees in the neighboring areas also return home. UNHCR strongly recommends that this be made clearer in the law and its comments.

“It ought to be clear to everyone that a situation characterized by insecurity and instability, for example with armored vehicles present in the streets and frequent terrorist attacks with civilian casualties, clearly does not meet the conditions in order to cease refugee status,” says Henrik M. Nordentoft.

UNHCR hopes that the parties in Parliament will consider these views carefully in the further process of the law proposal.

UNHCR’s more detailed observations on the law proposal can be found here