Denmark plans to isolate unwanted migrants on island
By MARTIN S SORENSEN
DENMARK PLANS to house the country’s most unwelcome foreigners in a most unwelcoming place: a tiny, hard-to-reach island that now holds the laboratories, stables and crematory of a centre for researching contagious animal diseases.
“They are unwanted in Denmark, and they will feel that,” Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg, wrote on Facebook.
On Friday, the centre-right government and the rightwing Danish People’s Party announced an agreement to house as many as 100 people on Lindholm Island — foreigners who have been convicted of crimes and rejected asylum seekers who cannot be returned to their home countries.
The 17-acre island, in an inlet of the Baltic Sea, lies some 3.6 km from the nearest shore, and ferry service is infrequent. Foreigners will be required to report at the island centre daily, and face imprisonment if they do not.
“We are going to minimise the number of ferry departures as much as at all possible,” Martin Henriksen, a spokesman for the Danish People’s Party on immigration, told TV 2.
“We are going to make it as cumbersome and expensive as possible.”
The deal allocates about $115 million over four years for immigrant facilities on the island, which are scheduled to open in 2021.
Finance Minister Kristian Jensen, who led the negotiations, said the island was not a prison, but added that anyone placed there would have to sleep there.
Louise Holck, deputy executive director of the Danish Institute for Human Rights, said her organisation would watch the situation “very closely” for possible violations of Denmark’s international obligations.
The agreement was reached as part of annual budget negotiations. Each year, the Danish People’s Party demands restrictions on immigrants or refugees in return for its votes on a budget.
In much of Europe, the surge in migration from the Middle East and Africa in 2015 and 2016 prompted a populist, nativist backlash. The Danish government has vowed to push immigration law to the limits of international conventions on human rights.
Legal experts said it was too early to tell whether the Lindholm Island project would cross those boundaries, constituting illegal confinement. They said it resembled an Italian government project that was struck down in 1980 by the European Court of Human Rights.
The Lindholm Island plan furthers the policy of motivating failed asylum seekers to leave by making their lives intolerable.
This summer, a ban on face coverings was introduced and quickly nicknamed “the burqa ban” as it followed a debate on the Islamic garment seen by some as “un-danish.”
This month, parliament is expected to pass legislation requiring immigrants who want to obtain citizenship to shake hands with officials as part of the naturalisation ceremony — though some Muslims insist that they cannot shake hands with someone of the opposite sex.
The government contends that handshakes are “a basic Danish value.”
A protest in Copenhagen, Denmark, in August, when the ban on the Islamic full-face veil in public spaces came into force.