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Supreme Court of Denmark

Unlawful introduction benefits/Start Help 

Case no. 159/2009
Judgment 15 February 2012
 

A
vs.
The Municipality of Egedal and
The Ministry of Employment (previously the Ministry of Refugees, Immigration and Integration Affairs)

Unlawful introduction benefits/Start Help

Following an amendment in 2002 of the Danish Consolidation Act on an Active Social Policy, aliens were no longer entitled to cash benefits, but only to Start Help, if they had not stayed in Denmark for a total of seven years during the past eight years. Under the Danish Integration Act, aliens received introduction benefits, which corresponded to Start Help after the amendment, for up to three years. Pursuant to both Acts, aliens could also be granted assistance for reasonably motivated non-recurrent expenses.

In 2003, A was granted a residence permit as a refugee and received introduction benefits in an amount of DKK 5,266 before tax. Later that year, he was granted family reunification with his wife and their four youngest children. Later, their oldest child was also granted a residence permit. The whole family lived in a flat allocated by the Municipality. In the period 2004-2007, the total public benefits paid to A and his wife amounted to between DKK 209,000 and DKK 265,000 a year after tax.

A believed that it was in contravention of s. 75(2) of the Danish Constitutional Act and the prohibition against discrimination in article 14 of the European Human Rights Convention read with various other international conventions, including in particular the Refugee Convention, that he as a fugitive was not able to meet the residency requirement for receiving cash benefits.

The Supreme Court stated that under s. 75(2) of the Constitutional Act, the State must provide a subsistence level for people who, like A, are covered by the provision, and that they are entitled to bring the issue of whether the requirement has been fulfilled before the courts. However, considering the amount of the introduction benefits/Start Help and other benefits which he and his wife received from the State, the Court found no basis for concluding that the help received by A was not in pursuance of s. 75(2) of the Constitutional Act.

Also, the Supreme Court found no basis for concluding that the rules on introduction benefits and Start Help, which were introduced with the 2002 amendment, and which, among other things, aimed at getting more people a job and more people off public support and – as far as aliens are concerned – furthering their general integration into Danish society, amounted to indirect discrimination of A on the grounds of nationality in contravention of article 14 of the European Human Rights Convention. It was justified to apply an income principle according to which a person, regardless of whether he or she is a Danish citizen or an alien, must have stayed in Denmark for a certain period of time before he or she is entitled to receive the highest amount of benefits from the State. The Start Help was not the only benefits aliens could receive. They could also be entitled to receive individual benefits and housing benefits etc., as is illustrated by the public support received by A and his wife. For this reason, the Court found no basis for concluding that the amendment had consequences which may be characterised as disproportional. The other conventions, including the Refugee Convention, which A had relied on, could not lead to any other conclusion.

The Supreme Court then dismissed the claim against the Municipality of Egedal and the Ministry of Employment.

The High Court had reached the same conclusion. 

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