Tess Hellgren presents her paper 'Challenging the borders of intimacy and legality: migrant agency in response to Danish restrictions on transnational marriage' in Parallel session IV(B) of the conference Examining Migration Dynamics: Networks and Beyond
Based on my 2012 dissertation work for the Oxford MSc in Migration Studies, my presentation will explore migrants' creative agency in response to Denmark's ‘24-year rule' limiting transnational marriage migration. My paper will examine how Danish restrictions have impacted the decisions, identities, and livelihoods of Danish-migrant couples - and how these couples' agentive strategies are creating new migration flows between Denmark and southern Sweden, with implications for regional transnational belonging and on-going legal debates on the balance of national and EU authority.
Over the past ten years, immigration discourses have been increasingly politicised in Denmark, tied to the enhanced influence of the right-wing Danish People's Party over mainstream political leadership. Amidst the societal normalisation of anti-immigration sentiments, since 2002 legislation on marriage migration places strict requirements of age, income, and ‘national attachment' upon any third-country national (TCN) wishing to marry a Dane. In practice, these marriage restrictions have been a pragmatic immigration control, considerably restricting the eligibility of potential applicants for family migration.
In response to the Danish governments' legal impediments, many Danes wishing to marry TCNs - particularly Danes in the Copenhagen area - have chosen to move to southern Sweden, where their marriage is allowed under stronger rights to family life derived from their status as mobile EU citizens. By relocating across the Danish border, impacted couples are strategically navigating intersecting levels of Danish, Nordic, and EU law in their determination to form a partnership. This provocative outcome establishes new patterns of transnational living and identity, as many couples reside in Sweden but spend more time working and visiting family across the border in Denmark. It also raises important questions about present and future interactions of national and supranational legal structures in the realm of EU family migration and beyond.