Somalia wants Denmark to release mentally ill refugee in return for repatriation deal

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
Somalia wants Denmark to release mentally ill refugee in return for repatriation deal
Photo: SergiyN/Depositphotos"

Somalia’s ambassador to the EU has tied an agreement with Denmark on rejected asylum seekers to the long-standing and controversial case of a Somali refugee detained at a Danish psychiatric unit since 2001.


The north east African country wants Denmark to release 36-year-old Abdulle Ahmed as a condition of entering talks on accepting Somalian asylum seekers rejected by Denmark, reports the Politiken newspaper.

Ali Faqi, Somalia’s ambassador to the EU, made the demand during a 20-minute meeting with the Danish ambassador in Belgium at the beginning of this month, according to the report.

Somalia has previously confirmed that no agreement on forced repatriations exists between it and Denmark.

Denmark’s government has stated that it wants to be able to forcibly repatriate Somalians whose claims for asylum are rejected. That wish now appears to have been attached to the fate of Abdulle Ahmed.

“I have literally said to the Danish ambassador that there will be no agreement on refugees being returned to Somalia until Abdulle’s situation is resolved,” Faqi told Politiken.

Louise Bang Jespersen, Denmark’s ambassador in Belgium, confirmed to the newspaper the meeting had taken place along with its subject matter.

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Abdulle Ahmed is a psychiatric patient who has been held at the Sikringen institution for legally detained mental health patients for the last 16 years.

Ahmed came to Denmark as a 12-year old in 1992, and started receiving treatment for psychiatric conditions at the age of 15, reports Politiken.

In 2001, when he was 20, he was given a custodial sentence at a psychiatric unit for assault against a social carer. After a second assault, Ahmed was transferred to the high-security Sikringen institution, where he has remained until today.

Some of Denmark’s most dangerous and unstable prisoners are detained at Sikringen. Transfer to the institution requires a statement that the prisoner is dangerous – known as a farlighedsdekret – due to their condition.

Such a statement regarding Abdulle Ahmed was issued by the Ministry of Justice on the recommendation of doctors in 2001, after he was diagnosed with psychosis and schizophrenia. But although the sentence for psychiatric treatment was lifted by Holbæk Court in 2009, the ministry did not withdraw its statement, according to Politiken's report. 

A message painted on to the path in front of Copenhagen's Little Mermaid statue in an act of vandalism on Wednesday morning has been reported to refer to Ahmed.

The message sprayed in front of the Little Mermaid statue may have referred to Ahmed. Photo: Bax Lindhardt/Scanpix

The family of the 36-year-old psychiatric patient, as well as the 'Free Adbulle' movement calling for his release, told the Nordjyske newspaper in a joint statement on Thursday that they condemned the act of vandalism.

"There must be no doubt about the intentions of Ahmed Abdulle's family and the Free Abdulle movement - to help Abdulle and to win his freedom. There have been several legal demonstrations calling for Abdulle's release with several hundred participants. There has never been trouble, vandalism or anything like that," wrote Ahmed's brother Mohamud Ahmed.

Ahmed’s case is already a diplomatic issue between the two countries. Faqi has previously demanded him to be handed over to Somalia and hired a Danish lawyer to work for his release. The Danish authorities have so far not shown any desire to meet the Somalian demands.

The 36-year-old’s parents say that their son is being held illegally for a treatment that is not effective, and the case has been discussed on repeated occasions in the Danish media as well as in the Somalian diaspora in Europe.

The case has also been criticised by a parliamentary ombudsman, the Council of Europe's torture committee and Amnesty International, reports Nordjyske.

Documentation has shown that Ahmed has been given anti psychosis medicines in far greater amounts than recommended doses and has received electroshock therapy on several occasions, according to Politiken's report.

A migration studies expert told Politiken that the demands mixing together two separate issues represented a “merchant mentality” commonly seen when countries attempt to make deals on repatriation.

“This is an unpleasant example of the merchant mentality that seems to characterise many of the repatriation arrangements that are made – not just for Denmark, but also on a European level,” Martin Lemberg-Pedersen of Aalborg University told Politiken.

Denmark’s Ministry of Justice declined to comment on the case, citing that it could not comment on individual cases.

The Ministry of Immigration wrote in a written message that it was seeking an agreement on rejected asylum seekers with Somalia and that negotiations were continuing in private at Somalia’s request. 

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