Detention in Denmark

last update: 1.2.2016

There is one detention center in Denmark, it is called "Ellebæk" and it lies next to the main asylum camp, "Sandholmlejren". 

A detention center works like a prison and is run by the probation service in Denmark. As an asylum seeker you can be detained without having committed a crime, for example if you are a rejected asylum seeker and they believe you will go underground or leave to another country. There is a maximum limit on 18 months of keeping people in Ellebæk. In most cases the detention period is shorter. You can also be isolated from the other people in the prison.

With the new regulations and stricter rules, approved by the Danish parliament it has become 'easier' to detain asylum seeker when they arrive to Denmark and also in situations of deportations, where it in the future will be the 'normal' proceudre to detain people before deportations.




You can get visitors, while being detained, but the police can always oppose this or demand, that the visit will be under control. You have to send a letter of request to your visitors, as visitors cannot ask to visit you. The authorities in the prison have to permit the visit, and can chose to not permit visits .

Priest - Ellebæk has a permanently associated christian priest. This is not part of the normal visitors rules.

Doctors - You have the right to be seen by a doctor, this will usually be one of the doctors, that is associated with Ellebæk. This is not part of the normal visitors rules.

If you need psychiatric care you will be transferred to the hospital adjacent to Western Prison in Copenhagen or the psychiatric department of Hillerod Hospital.

Lawyers - You always have the right to get uncontrolled visit from an appointed lawyer.


You are not allowed to have a cell phone in the prison. There is a phone you can use, but you have to pay for this. There is an internetcafe, which is for free, but it is restricted which pages you are allowed to visit. You are allowed to send and receive letters, but the police have the right to read them.

Living costs/allowance

When you are in Ellebæk, you will not receive the allowance from the Red Cross. You have the right to work within the prison and can get some payment for this, but you do not have to work.


Minors can be detained at the Ellebaek facility with their parents in a special unit for families. Unaccompanied minors are transferred to the Gribskov centre for unaccompanied minors, administered by the Danish Red Cross. 

Extension of the detention

The general rule is that maximum 72 hours after you have been detained a judge have to assess whether the detention is legal. This has to be reassessed minimum every fourth week. Practically this takes place through video, you will be in a room in Sandholm, with a interpreter and your defence attorney, while the judge, and the representant of the police is in the court in Hillerød. As far as we know extensions of detention are always permitted.

You will get an appointed defense attorney, who you can contact and ask questions before the extenstion case will take place.

However, in November 2015 the rules changes. So now this the 72 hours rule can be suspended. This means that people are not put in front of a judge within 72 hours, but only when the asylum seekers themselves actively requests this. And here, it might not take place within 72 hours, but only when possible.

Contact organizations or persons outside that can assist you in the legal process and whom you can inform if you think your rights are being violated.

As an alternative to detention you can be asked to report personally to the police at certain times, for example every day or every week.

In the future the Danish authorities wish to make it easier to detain rejected asylum seekers, and to make it possible to detain asylum seekers in order to clarify their identity.  

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