Danish mayors call for closure of asylum ‘departure centres’

Mayors in the municipalities in which Denmark’s 'expulsion centres' for rejected asylum seekers are located have added their voices to those calling for the facilities to be shut down.

Danish mayors call for closure of asylum 'departure centres'
'Close Kærshovedgård' stickers inside a room at the Jutland facility. Photo: Farah Bahgat

Ib Lauritsen, mayor in Ikast-Brande, and Morten Slotved of Hørsholm have both said that they would like to see asylum facilities in their jurisdictions closed.

The facilities in question are Denmark’s two so-called udrejsecenters (departure or expulsion centres), which house rejected asylum seekers who have not yet left Danish territory, for example due to being stateless or because no readmission arrangement exists between Denmark and their home country.

Expulsion centres are located at Kærshovedgård and Sjælsmark, within the Ikast-Brande and Hørsholm municipalities respectively.

Lauritsen told newspaper Kristeligt Dagblad that he would like the Kærshovedgård facility to close.

“If I am to be honest, we never wanted the centre. So if it was announced that the centre was to close, we would welcome that. I would actually prefer the centre not to be there,” Lauritsen told the newspaper.

The Local has previously reported on the conditions at Kærshovedgård and has visited the facility to speak to people accommodated there.

Lauritsen said that the primary reason for his stance was the negative feeling towards the centre in Bording, the nearest town, and amongst others that live close to Kærshovedgård.

Some residents have put up fences and others have expressed concerns about having asylum seekers accommodated in the area, he said.

“I understand people that feel sorry for them and want to help. But I also understand neighbours who don’t want them there. It’s not a black-and-white situation. It’s complex, and it’s difficult to accommodate everyone in a small community,” Lauritsen, who represents the Liberal (Venstre) party – that of Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and immigration minister Inger Støjberg – told Kristeligt Dagblad.

READ ALSO: The middle of nowhere: Inside Denmark's Kærshovedgård deportation camp

Slotved, the Conservative mayor in Hørsholm, cited security issues in his calls for the Sjælsmark centre to be closed.

Internal conflicts and situation involving a hostage inside the facility are amongst those causing concern for residents, according to Kristeligt Dagblad's report.

“This is a big issue for us and it is more than our local community can cope with. So we are campaigning hard for it to be closed,” Slotved told the newspaper.

READ ALSO: Danish immigration minister escorted from deportation centre as tensions boil over

The reported concerns of local residents fit with a recognisable trend, according to Jens Peter Frølund Thomsen, a researcher at Aarhus University.

“When you have an asylum centre nearby, the problems just become more real,” Thomsen said to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Similar responses of small local communities to an influx of asylum seekers have been observed in other European countries including Greece and Italy, he said.

“What is interesting is that capital cities find it easier to accept the problems that can arise with other cultures and subcultures, while smaller local communities react quite negatively,” the researcher continued.

Pia Heike Johansen, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark and researcher into urban-rural relations and immigration, said that the injection of new residents to a local community is often an economic boon, but that context was important.

“(Immigration) brings more children to schools, more members in local societies and more customers to local shops,” Johansen said to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Problems arise when asylum seekers or foreign workers are introduced to a local community on a short-term basis, she added.

“There is simply lower tolerance if the foreigners do not stay there. Networks and relationships are not developed. If people are only there for six months and then move on, or are at a departure centre for an unspecified period, the tolerance threshold is completely different,” Johansen said.



Denmark scraps plan for Langeland expulsion centre

The government late on Tuesday announced it will not go ahead with plans to open a so-called departure or expulsion centre on Langeland, in the face of fierce opposition in parliament and from the island's local community.

Denmark scraps plan for Langeland expulsion centre
Langelændere (people from Langeland) demonstrate on Tuesday against the now-scrapped plans for a departure centre on their island. Photo: Philip Davali/Ritzau Scanpix

Proposed last week, the centre would have housed people with ‘tolerated stay’ (tålt ophold) status, who do not have permission to reside in Denmark but cannot be deported by force. The planned facility was for around 130 accommodate foreign nationals with criminal records who have served their sentences but are awaiting deportation.

The persons who would have been moved to the centre will therefore remain for the time being at a similar facility at Kærshovedgård in Jutland. That centre also houses people who have not committed crimes but have no legal right to stay in Denmark, for example due to a rejected asylum claim.


Opposition parties opposed the Langeland plan following its announcement last week, calling for the centre to be located more remotely. Langeland residents also resisted it, both during a visit to the island last week by immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye and in a demonstration at the Christiansborg parliament on Tuesday.

The centre-left Socialist People’s Party (SF), which is the party of Langeland’s mayor, also said it would block the plan, leaving the minority government without the parliamentary majority needed to push it through.

“It is very obvious that there’s a majority in parliament which is against the establishment of a new departure centre on Langeland,” Tesfaye told broadcaster DR on Tuesday evening.

“That’s a shame in my view, but I have also said from the start that I cannot not conjure up (the centre) against a majority in parliament, after all,” he added.

Cancellation of the plan means that the “status quo” of existing expulsion centres will continue, the minister confirmed.

As such the 130 persons who would have been moved to Langeland will now remain at the Kærshovedgård centre.

In a statement, Tesfaye said that he would welcome suggestions from the other parties for alternative locations.

“You have to say that the situation has changed. We are now in a situation in which parliament wants influence (over the issue),” he told DR.

“If you take control over an issue, you also take responsibility,” he added.

Since winning the election in 2019, the Social Democratic government has generally worked with right-wing parties to pass laws related to immigration, rather than its established allies on the left, the so-called ‘red bloc’.