After a five-hour hearing on June 1st, she faced parliamentary opponents as well as allies for a second consultation on Friday morning, this time lasting two and a half hours.
She was repeatedly accused by opponents of not answering questions and was also accused of lying by Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) MP Johanne Schmidt Nielsen.
The minister said that she “didn’t know what the opposition really thinks about child brides” and that they “just want to get rid of me”.
Støjberg’s ministry of immigration acted in February 2016 to forcibly separate all asylum seekers under 18 years of age living in asylum accommodation from their partners.
The directive was later found by parliament’s ombudsman to be illegal, since it did not provide for individual case assessments or consultations with affected parties.
Støjberg stuck rigidly throughout the hearing to the explanation she gave at the original June 1st consultation – that the text sent by her was intended as a press statement but was then used as a directive by the Danish Immigration Service (Udlændingestyrelsen).
A second text that took the form of a directive should have been sent but was not, according to the minister.
No legal assessment of the directive was made since it was considered a press statement at the time, she added.
Støjberg’s order was later found illegal by the parliamentary ombudsman because the directive was not sent as a follow-up to the press statement text, the minister said.
The Politiken newspaper reported earlier this week that Støjberg or her ministry referred to the order using the word ‘directive’ (instruks) on 18 separate occasions between March 9th 2016 and 22nd May 2017.
The immigration minister admitted in her opening statement that communication within her ministry lacked “stringency” and that “there are things we should have done differently”.
“I have taken the serious criticism of the ombudsman into account,” she said.
During the parliamentary consultation, Støjberg was repeatedly asked by opposition MPs Schmidt-Nielsen, Sofie Carsten Nielsen (Social Liberal) and Josephine Fock (Alternative) whether she and subordinate civil servants at the Ministry of Immigration had acted legally throughout the period from issue of the directive on February 10th 2016 until April 28th that year, when parties in separation cases began being consulted individually.
Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen of the Red Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) party opened the questioning at the second parliamentary hearing into Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg's management of the so-called asylum couple directive. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Scanpix
In response, the minister cited six cases of couples not being separated following individual consultations as evidence that the law was not broken, but appeared to admit that illegal administration took place with regard to individual consultations.
Both Danish and international law states that all cases must be assessed individually, and all parties in individual cases must be consulted before couples are forcibly separated.
“In relation to individual assessment being undertaken prior to separation of the couple, [the law] was [upheld]. Regarding consultations, it was not. Consultations did not begin until April 28th,” Støjberg said.
17 couples who were forcibly separated immediately following the February 10th directive waited an average of 94 days before being consulted and then allowed to move back together, reports Politiken.
The three opposition politicians, as well as Social Democrats Mathias Tesfaye and Astrid Kragh, also challenged Støjberg’s explanation by questioning how she could have been unaware of the illegal nature of the directive sent to the Immigration Service.
An internal ministry meeting took place over the issue and letters were sent to the minister by human rights NGOs the Red Cross and the Danish Institute for Human Rights prior to April 28th 2016, but Støjberg maintained that she remained unaware of the illegality of the directive during that period, both Tesfaye and Kragh pointed out.
Tesfaye claimed that the immigration minister was “passing the buck” to ministry civil servants.
In response, Støjberg noted that individual consultations in child bride cases were also not carried out by previous governments, including under the Social Democrat-led cabinet of 2011-15 in which both Kragh and Carsten Nielsen served as ministers.
“The opposition just wants to get rid of me,” the immigration minister fired back at parliamentary colleagues.
It now appears almost certain that a third consultation will be held over the issue.
Schmidt-Nielsen said that another consultation would have to be called and accused Støjberg of not answering questions truthfully.
“You’re lying, minister. And ministers are not allowed to lie,” said the Red-Green Alliance MP.