No Støjberg inquiry without election after final hearing

Denmark’s opposition Social Democrats would approve an official inquiry into Immigration Minister Inger Støjberg’s illegal asylum directive, should they win the next general election.

No Støjberg inquiry without election after final hearing
Mattias Tesfaye. Photo: Uffe Weng/Scanpix

In the event of a win for Denmark’s left-wing parties in the next general election, an inquiry would be initiated in an illegal directive to separate asylum seekers under the age of 18 from their partners.

A third parliamentary hearing on Wednesday concluded with the position of the three parties in the coalition government and the right-wing Danish People’s Party unchanged — that they would block any attempts by the current parliament to initiate an inquiry.

During three separate hearings, the last of which took place on Wednesday, Støjberg admitted that young asylum pairs were forcibly separated without their cases being individually assessed – breaching Denmark's domestic and international human rights obligations.

The separations were a result of an illegal directive issued by Støjberg in February 2016.

Støjberg said at both hearings that the directive was actually a press statement that was erroneously implemented as a directive.

Until recently, other parties in parliament’s ‘red bloc’ – the Social Liberal, Red-Green Alliance, Alternative and Socialist People’s parties – have been without the Social Democrats, the largest opposition party, in calling for an inquiry, reports newspaper Politiken.

But Frederiksen’s party has concluded after the third hearing that it also feels an inquiry is justified.

“An independent investigation is needed, first and foremost because have not received answers to the questions we have asked, and because the minister keeps changing her explanations. To be honest, I have lost confidence that the minister is speaking the truth over this issue,” said the party’s spokesperson on the issue Mattias Tesfaye to Politiken.

READ ALSO: Immigration minister Støjberg gave incorrect information during parliament hearing

“It will not do to give elected representatives the impression that they can force authorities to administer illegally, speak incomprehensibly and change stories in parliament without consequence, just because the minister is popular,” he added.

The Red-Green Alliance’s Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen also criticised Støjberg.

“This is very serious. The minister has lied to parliament. That kind of thing should obviously be investigated thoroughly. We cannot go any further now, as the blue bloc has put up its defences around her,” Schmidt-Nielsen told Politiken.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Støjberg declined to take responsibility for the application of the directive, the illegal nature of which was confirmed in May this year.

“It is the responsibility of authorities [to ensure illegal administration is not pursued] she said during the hearing according to Politiken.

Støjberg said that she was not made aware of the illegal nature of the directive until several months after it was issued in February 2016.

Civil servants’ union Djøf told the newspaper that statement was “disappointing”.

“It’s disappointing to see a minister that publicly reprimands her civil service. That does nothing for confidence in either the service or the minister,” Djøf Offentlig chairperson Sara Vergo told Politiken.

READ ALSO: Immigration minister Støjberg accused of lying in fiery parliament hearing


Danish ex-minister quits party after impeachment trial fallout

The former immigration minister Inger Støjberg has announced she will leave the opposition Liberal (Venstre) party and continue in parliament as an independent.

Danish ex-minister quits party after impeachment trial fallout
Inger Støjberg. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

The announcement comes after a majority of Liberal party lawmakers voted in favour of sending the former minister to an impeachment court over an illegal order she issued while in office.

She had previously stepped down as deputy leader of the Liberals over the issue.

“This is endlessly hard for me, but it couldn’t be any different. In the period I’m in now, being an independent is the best way I can continue to fight for the values I stand for,” she told the local Skive Folkeblad.

She also cast doubt in the interview on the Liberal party’s chances of winning an election with leader Jakob Ellemann-Jensen at its helm and said the party’s current stance on immigration was not strict enough.

“I don’t think he (Ellemann-Jensen) will become prime minister,” she said.

Støjberg and Ellemann-Jensen have repeatedly clashed as the enquiry into her illegal order and subsequent move for an impeachment trial progressed in parliament.

The former has long been a divisive figure in Danish politics, not least because of her hardline policies and often-populist image while immigration minister.

These have included publishing anti-refugee advertisements in Lebanese newspapers, posting a picture of a celebratory cake on social media after passing a 50th law curbing immigration, and a law enabling Danish authorities to confiscate valuable items from refugees.

She was, however, the architect of a successful apprenticeship scheme for refugees while immigration minister, and defended the scheme when it was attacked by the far right.

According to Danish law, she could face anything between a fine or a prison sentence of up to ten years, should the impeachment trial find her guilty.

The leaders of Denmark’s two far-right, anti-immigration parties, the Danish People’s Party and Nye Borgerlige (New Right), both said on Thursday morning that Støjberg would be welcome to join them, news wire Ritzau reported.

The former minister is not the only high profile departure from the Liberal party in recent weeks. On January 1st, former prime minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen announced he would hand in his membership, also to continue

READ ALSO: Why Denmark’s former immigration minister will face impeachment trial