Danish opposition party questions immigration minister Støjberg’s future over illegal order

Denmark’s Social Liberal party has called for Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen to consider whether under-fire immigration minister Inger Støjberg should keep her job.

Danish opposition party questions immigration minister Støjberg’s future over illegal order
Immigration minister Inger Støjberg. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Scanpix

Støjberg is facing increased pressure over an illegal parliamentary order to separate asylum seeking couples.

The minister was grilled in a parliamentary consultation last week over an illegal directive to force asylum seeker couplesincluding individuals under 18 years of ageto live separately, regardless of whether the couples had children.

The directive, issued by Støjberg in February 2016, may have been given despite her prior knowledge that it was illegal to do so, according to reports.

READ ALSO: Did Denmark’s immigration minister knowingly break the law with illegal directive?

The Social Liberal party has accused Støjberg of lying repeatedly over the issue, reports news agency Ritzau.

Rasmussen’s government and its parliamentary allies must ask themselves whether they believe Støjberg should be allowed to continue as minister for immigration, Social Liberal leader Sofie Carsten Nielsen told Ritzau.

Sections of Ministry of Immigration documentation made public by the Politiken newspaper on Wednesday showed that administrative errors were also made in connection with the directive, piling further pressure on the immigration minister.

“There have not just been mistakes. Illegal actions and administration have taken place. That is in direct contradiction of what Inger Støjberg said at the hearing on June 1st,” Nielsen told Ritzau.

“She spoke untruths at the hearing, where she also changed her story. That adds a new dimension to the degree of illegalities committed in this case,” she added.

The government and its allies in parliament’s conservative bloc have thus far supported Støjberg, who will face a second, currently unscheduled, hearing.

“Loyalty is important in Danish politics, but we have rule of law and a democracy based on fundamental legal principles of obeying the law. The law is the law, and must be obeyed,” Nielsen said.

At the original hearing, which lasted for five hours, Støjberg repeatedly asserted that no administrative illegalities were committed.

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

The documents shown by Politiken demonstrate that the immigration authority in several cases failed to carry out complete assessments of the couples in question prior to their separations.

According to Danish law, all pairs should have been given a chance to make a case for themselves before they were separated by force.

But this did not happen until months after the directive was issued by Støjberg, nor did it happen until after the issue had been referred to the parliamentary ombudsman, reports Politiken.

“A majority in parliament, the governing parties and not least the prime minister should take this seriously,” said Nielsen.

“Can you have a minister that sends an illegal directive that is subsequently administrated illegally?”, she added.

The minister also said that her party was “looking into” whether it might report Støjberg to the police if the conservative bloc continued to protect her over the issue. 


Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

Denmark now aims to work with other EU countries to transfer asylum seekers to centres outside Europe and has suspended talks with Rwanda as it no longer plans to go it alone, its migration minister said on Wednesday.

Denmark suspends asylum centre talks with Rwanda

The Scandinavian country’s plans, first announced by the previous Social Democratic government, called for people seeking asylum in Denmark to be transferred to reception centres outside the European Union while their requests were processed.

A law adopted in June 2021 did not specify which country would host the centre, but said asylum seekers should stay there even after they were granted refugee status.

Discussions were launched with Rwanda and other countries, but they have now been suspended since the installation of a new Danish left-right government in December headed by the Social Democrats.

“We are not holding any negotiations at the moment about the establishment of a Danish reception centre in Rwanda”, Migration and Integration Minister Kaare Dybvad told daily Altinget.

“This is a new government. We still have the same ambition, but we have a different process”, he added. “The new government’s programme calls for the establishment of a reception centre outside Europe “in cooperation with the EU or a number of other countries”.

The change is an about-face for the Social Democrats, which had until now rejected any European collaboration, judging it slow and thorny.

“While the wider approach also makes sense to us, [Denmark’s change of heart] is precisely because there has been movement on the issue among many European countries”, Dybvad said. “There are many now pushing for a stricter asylum policy in Europe”, he said.


Inger Støjberg, leader of the Denmark Democrats said on Facebook that she was “honestly disgusted” by the government’s decision to delay plans for a reception centre in Rwanda, pointing out that Kaare Dybvad had said during the election campaign that a deal would be done with Rwanda within a year. 

“Call us old-fashioned, but we say the same thing both before and after an election. We stand firm on a strict immigration policy. The Social Democrats, Liberals and Moderates clearly do not,” she said. 

Lars Boje Mathiesen from the New Right Party accused the government of perpetrating a “deadly fraud” on the Danish people. 

“It is said in Christiansborg that it is paused. But we all know what that means,” he wrote on Facebook, accusing Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen of “empty words” in the run-up to the election. 

In the face of this reaction, Dybvad told the Ritzau newswire that although talks with Rwanda were not happening at present, the government had not given up on a deal with the African nation. He also said that he was confident that asylum reception centres outside of the EU would be a reality within five years.

EU interior ministers are meeting in Stockholm this week to discuss asylum reform. Those talks are expected to focus on how to speed up the process of returning undocumented migrants to their country of origin in cases where their asylum bid fails.

Denmark’s immigration policy has been influenced by the far-right for more than 20 years. Even Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, the head of the Social Democrats, has pursued a “zero refugee” policy since coming to power in 2019.

Copenhagen has over the years implemented a slew of initiatives to discourage migrants and made Danish citizenship harder to obtain. In 2020, it became the only country in Europe to withdraw residency permits from Syrians from Damascus, judging that the situation there was now safe enough for them to return.