Freedom in the World
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Denmark is a robust democracy with regular free and fair elections. Its population enjoys full political rights, the government protects free expression and association, and the judiciary functions independently. However, with some of the strictest European laws for family reunification, long predating the 2015 migrant crisis, as well as more recent due process limitations for asylum seekers, Denmark has struggled to uphold all fundamental freedoms for immigrants and other newcomers.
- A November law allows foreigners to be detained or electronically tagged if they have been convicted of even minor crimes but cannot be deported due to conditions in their countries of origin.
- A January law allows border officials to seize refugees’ personal property and also increased the mandatory waiting time for family reunification for people without permanent residence.
- In May, lawmakers announced that transsexuality will be removed from classification as a mental illness, effective January 1, 2017.
Denmark regularly holds free and fair elections in an open political system. The government functions transparently and institutes strong safeguards against corruption. Most of the population enjoys a full range of unfettered civil liberties, and civil society is vibrant. A May law made Denmark the first country to no longer classify transsexuality as a mental disorder.
However, the Danish government has long imposed restrictions on its foreign-born population that make it stand out among its Nordic neighbors, and these have been further tightened in response to the massive increase in refugees to Europe in 2015. The year 2016 saw a string of legislative measures affecting immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. This began with a January law that extended the mandatory waiting time for family reunification (even for small children) for persons without permanent Danish residence from one to three years, and also authorized the confiscation of valuables carried by asylum seekers when they enter the country. In November, parliament passed a law allowing foreigners convicted of even minor crimes to be confined or electronically tagged without legal recourse if they cannot be deported due to conditions in their countries of origin. The Supreme Court in June ruled that Danish citizenship could be revoked from a man who also held a Moroccan passport after he was convicted of instigating terrorism.
This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Denmark, see Freedom in the World 2016.