Den­mark plans to iso­late un­wanted mi­grants on is­land

The East African - - OUTLOOK -

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.”

Pic­ture: AFP

A protest in Copen­hagen, Den­mark, in Au­gust, when the ban on the Is­lamic full-face veil in pub­lic spa­ces came into force.

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