A rejected Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker living in Denmark was subjected to physical force during her deportation, a video circulating on social media appears to show. Danish law allows the use of physical force against persons without legal residence status when they resist being deportated.
The video in question was shared last Tuesday (March 29) by Trampoline House, a migrant support organization offering counseling and other services to asylum seekers and refugees in Copenhagen, the Danish capital.
In the video, allegedly taken at the Avnstrup center for asylum seekers, four people are pinning down a person, who appears to look like a woman, on paving stones. A man in civilian clothing brings in restraints which are used to tie her, it looks like. The Avnstrup center for asylum seekers is located about an hour's drive west of Copenhagen.
The residents of the Avnstrup center who shared the video with Trampoline House allegedly said that "a Kurdish-Iranian mother and two of her three children were being picked up" by police and the Danish Return Agency (Hjemrejsestyrelsen), the entity responsible for organizing deportations from Denmark, the Trampoline House announced on Twitter in Danish shortly after the organization had posted the video.
Trampoline House also claimed that the mother received "a sedative injection", adding that her husband and the third child stayed in the center.
According to the Danish edition of The Local, the Danish Return Agency and the North Zealand police confirmed to Danish news agency Ritzau that physical restraint was used. However, it denied that medicine had been administered to the woman.
Criticism by Danish politicians
According to the Iraqi news site Rudaw, the name of the woman that was supposed to be deported is Qadam Kher Haqanizadeh, a Kurdish woman with Iranian nationality said to hold an expired Iranian passport. She was to be deported from Denmark with her two oldest children. According to Trampoline House, her youngest child, who is one year old, stays in Denmark with their father.
The organization said on social media that splitting the family was violating the European Court of Human Rights' right to family life. According to the Council of Europe website, the right to respect for family life includes "the rights of parents to have custody and contact with their children, and the rights of children to be with their parents."
"I can't bear to think of the fate that awaits the Kurdish woman who was yesterday forcibly deported," Sikandar Siddique of the Independent Green party wrote in Danish on Twitter. "I have called Tesfaye into consultation so he can explain if this is really how we treat people if it's up to the government," Siddique added, referring to Denmark's immigration minister, Mattias Tesfaye.
Citing Danish broadcaster DR, publication The Local reported that the video has prompted several other political parties to summon Tesfaye "into consultation on the matter."
Use of force legal under Danish law
The Ministry of Immigration and Integration reportedly told newspaper Politiken a forcible deportation of rejected asylum seekers was possible for persons who have an Iranian travel document, regardless of whether the document is valid -- despite a lack of a repatriation agreement between Denmark and Iran.
According to The Local, Danish law allows the use of physical force during deportations, provided a person without legal residence status in Denmark does not comply with their deportation travel. Under the country's Aliens Act (Ulændingeloven), such enforced deportation must be "with respect for the individual and without unnecessary use of force".
"If people don't leave voluntarily, they can be deported forcibly. As long as you stick to restraint and don't turn to violence, it's within the framework [legally, ed.]," Niels Henrik Christensen, a lawyer specialised in asylum, refugee and immigration law, told Danish broadcaster TV2.
"Force is used and [authorities] have that right. Nothing in the video surprises me. I'm not saying that to defend it, but that is allowed," he said.
Outrage among Kurdish community
The video sparked critisicm and outrage among Kurdish communities nonetheless.
Citing state-owned Iranian Press TV, the private Kudish news site Rudaw reported on Sunday (April 3) that the Iranian ambassador to Denmark had asked the Danish authorities to apologize for the "inhumane behavior" committed against the family.
The Danish Return Agency reportedly confirmed that the woman left Denmark on a flight following the episode captured in the video, TV2 reported last Wednesday (March 30).
Rudaw reported that Haqanizadeh and her two sons were brought to Istanbul, from where they were scheduled to fly to Tehran. But Haqanizadeh's cousin allegedly told Rudaw that the three were sent back to Denmark as Haqanizadeh resisted boarding the plane. TV2 also reported that she returned to the country after sustaining an injury during the journey.
According to Rudaw, the Kurdish family left their home in the western Iraqi Kermanshah province in 2014, traveling to Turkey and then to Denmark after claiming that their life was in danger in Iran.
Over the past couple of years, Denmark has been repeatedly criticized for its strict migration and asylum laws. In June 2021, the Danish parliament passed a law that calls for sending asylum seekers to countries outside Europe to examine their cases.
In December, Denmark's former immigration minister was sentenced to jail for forcing married refugee couples apart. And just last month, a controversy erupted after the government asked Syrian refugees to return to their home country despite the civil war, prompting Human Rights Watch to urge the Danish government to treat all refugees the same.