Racial discrimination in a Danish job centre

Concerning S.A. Vs. Denmark in violation of article 2 (1) (c), 5 and 6 of CERD.
S.A., originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, acquired Danish citizenship in 2002 and currently resides in Denmark. In July 2009, he moved to Aalborg. The author experienced racial discrimination when he applied for social assistance and was denied income support from the job centre, as they didn’t believe he was a Danish citizen, even though he had presented his passport and health insurance card. He was instead advised to apply for dispensation at the Danish Immigration Service for his right to reside in Denmark. As a Danish citizen, he did not understand why he had to apply for dispensation. Owing to lack of money, he could not afford a lawyer. He contacted the Danish media TV2 Nord, and in a television programme on 24 July 2009, the head of the social centre in Aalborg recognized that a mistake had been made, which the centre was ready to correct, and stated that the mistake probably had to do with the petitioner’s “foreign-sounding” name. The author then contacted the job centre but its employees maintained that he did not have Danish citizenship.

He send a complaint to the Board of Equal Treatment, and The Board took a decision in the petitioner’s favor and provided him with compensation of 2,000 DKr (approximately US$ 330). The author appealed the decision, as it was too low. But the district Court upheld the decision. The author then appealed the case to the High Court of Western Denmark. The High Court also upheld the decisiont, and furthermore, the court ordered the petitioner to cover the costs of the proceedings amounting to 25,000 DKr (approximately US$ 4,200).
The Committee is of the view that the State party has violated article 5 and 6 of CERD, and furthermore recommends that the State party review the amount of compensation provided to the author. It also recommends that the decision ordering the petitioner to cover the legal costs of the proceedings be reviewed so as to bring it into line with the principles of the Convention.
CERD’s decision remains unimplemented as of November 2023.

17. November 2023

CERD 58/2016
  • Decision: 13 December 2018
  • Comm: Race