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Denmark's integration minister Støjberg illegally separated asylum couples: report

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Denmark's integration minister Støjberg illegally separated asylum couples: report
Immigration minister Inger Støjberg. Photo: Ida Guldbæk /Scanpix
16:24 CEST+02:00
Inger Støjberg, Denmark's minister for immigration, may have been warned that an instruction to separate young refugee couples was illegal before issuing the order.

The minister gave an instruction in February 2016 to forcibly separate all asylum-seeking couples including individuals under 18 years of age, regardless of whether the couples had children.

The Ministry of Immigration (Udlændinge- og Integrationsministeriet) was subsequently advised by the Ministry of Justice that individual assessments of cases would be required before couples could be separated, according to the report.

But Støjberg went ahead with her order, informing parliament on March 9th last year that “no minor-aged asylum seekers under 18 years of age can be accommodated together with their spouse or partner from now on.”

On July 1st 2016, new directives were issued by the immigration ministry stipulating individual assessments, and separated couples were again allowed to live at the same accommodation.

But an internal ministry mail was also sent warning Støjberg of the legal issues with the order on 9th February 2016, the day before she made the order, reports newspaper Politiken.

Støjberg cut a key passage from the draft instruction put together by ministry officials relating to individual assessment of cases, rendering it illegal, according to the report.

In its review of the case, the Parliamentary ombudsman also stated that internal emails detailing the ministry's “legal considerations” on separation of asylum couples were not logged properly – also an illegal action – and were first provided to the ombudsman at the second request in May 2016.

Politiken reported Sunday that a Syrian couple has been advised to take legal action against the minister after they were forcibly separated by Støjberg's instruction.

READ ALSO: 'Report pizzerias where Danish isn't spoken': integration minister

The couple, Rimaz Alkayal and Alnour Alwan, who arrived in Denmark in 2015 and were 17 and 26 years old at the time, were forced to separate by the February 2016 order.

Four months later they received a mail from the Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen) informing them that the forced separation had been too “invasive” and that they had been given permission to live together at an asylum centre again, reports Politiken.

“We oppose forced marriages, they destroy families and should be prevented. But I still don't understand why the authorities can't distinguish between individual cases,” Alwan told Politiken.

The couple filed a complaint with the parliamentary ombudsman, which in March ruled Støjberg's intervention illegal, calling it “particularly criticisable”.

A total of 34 couples, many of which had children, were affected by the instruction given by Støjberg.

Opposition parties have called for full details of the Ministry of Immigration communication over the issue to now be released.

“It is very obvious to me that everything must be laid on the table now. There seem to have bee warnings sent to [Støjberg] before the instruction was issued, and it seems as though important information was simply not given to parliament,” said Social Liberal (Radikale Venstre) immigration spokesperson Sofie Carsten Nielsen.

Politiken reports that Støjberg has not ruled out being warned verbally of the issue with the legality of the instruction, but said to the newspaper that nothing in writing was received by her.

Immigration spokesperson and former foreign minister Holger K. Nielsen of the Socialist People's Party said that Støjberg was in “deep water” over the issue.

“Verbal warnings are just as serious as written ones, so if the head of department, for example, has given her the information, she has a problem,” Holger K. Nielsen said to Politiken. 

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