According to Statistics Denmark the number of stateless people in Denmark is at 1,342. Of these, 460 have been unaware that they have had the right to citizenship in Denmark under UN conventions, simply because they are stateless people born in Denmark.
The Statistics Denmark figures come in the midst of a heated debate about illegal rejections of citizenship applications that dozens of stateless Palestinians received between 2004 and 2010. It now seems that there has been a silent majority that has not applied, probably because they were unaware of an option that has been available for more than 10 years.
Until January this year, the authorities - for example the ministry’s web page nyidanmark.dk – did not make the public aware of the issue.
Aarhus University Refugee Legal Expert Jesper Lindholm says Denmark must now offer citizenship to those who are or have been eligible.
“It shouldn’t be the big problem that some people make out of it. We have obligations under two United Nations conventions,” says Lindholm.
“In a society such as the Danish, which is based on the Rule of Law, we have ignored a clear legal right. So there should be no discussion,” Lindholm adds.
Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech has hitherto declined to comment on whether those passed by should be given citizenship as she is waiting for an Integration Ministry report. A year ago, she did admit that the ministry had made a mistake. Until January this year, however, the ministry did not act to inform stateless people under 21 that they were eligible for citizenship under the 1961 UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness or the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
After the age of 21, people are no longer eligible for the protection of the conventions.
But given that a legal right to citizenship has been in force for the Palestinians in question since 1999, all experts that politiken.dk has spoken to say that the group has a legal right to citizenship.
Edited by Julian Isherwood