Denmark to banish foreign convicted criminals to deserted island

Foreign nationals convicted of crimes and sentenced to deportation are to be accommodated on a deserted island, Denmark’s government announced on Friday.

Denmark to banish foreign convicted criminals to deserted island
Lindholm. Photo: Styrelsen for Dataforsyning og Effektivisering/Ritzau Scanpix

The provision was secured under the new budget agreement between Denmark’s conservative tripartite coalition government and anti-immigration ally the Danish People’s Party (DF).

Foreign citizens convicted of crimes and slated for deportation under the terms of their sentences will be held at a facility on Lindholm, a seven-hectare island in Stege Bay between the islands of Møn and Zealand, Minister of Finance Kristian Jensen confirmed.

“They will not be imprisoned,” Jensen said in quotes reported by news agency Ritzau.

“There will be a ferry service to and from the island, but the ferry will not operate around the clock, and they must stay at the departure centre at night. That way we will be better able to monitor where they are,” he said.

The facility will house convicted foreign nationals whom Denmark is unable to deport, for example due to being stateless or because no readmission arrangement exists between Denmark and their home country.

Kærshovedgård Departure Centre in Jutland is currently used to accommodate such individuals as well as others who have not committed any crime but whose asylum applications have been rejected by Denmark.

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

Kærshovedgård will not be closed and will remain in use for the accommodation of rejected asylum seekers awaiting deportation, Ritzau reports.

The Lindholm facility will be used to house people with so-called ‘tolerated stay’ (tålt ophold) status, who do not have permission to reside in Denmark but cannot be deported, and rejected asylum seekers who have committed specific crimes.

The Danish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalforsorgen) will be responsible for the operation of the facility. Police will be present at all times and detention facilities will be provided for individuals placed under arrest to be held while they await further transportation.

The centre will be brought into operation over several phases to be completed by 2021.

“There are more limits to how much you can move around when you are on a deserted island. You are in principle obliged to remain on the island. So we will have more control over where they are,” Jensen said to Ritzau.

“It is a problem for us that we can see that some foreigners who have in fact been sentenced to deportation are still committing crimes, and we have no way of monitoring them,” he added.

Opposition politicians criticised the plan.

The policy reflected a “humanitarian collapse” in Danish politics, Uffe Elbæk, political leader with the environmentalist Alternative party and a prime ministerial candidate, wrote on Twitter.

“The green government I want to lead would never force people on to a deserted island,” Elbæk wrote.

“Inhuman politics are creating a completely different Denmark to the Denmark I love,” he added.

Morten Østergaard, leader of the Social Liberals (Radikale Venstre), cited concerns voiced by residents and the mayor and reported by broadcaster DR in Vordingborg, the administrative centre of the municipality in which Lindholm is located.

The decision to place foreign convicted criminals on a deserted island was “symbolic politics without an end,” Østergaard tweeted.

In contrast, the Danish People's Party celebrated the announcement by tweeting from its official account a graphic showing a dark-skinned man in apparently Islamic attire being transported to a deserted island in miserable weather.

“Deported, criminal foreigners have NO reason to be in Denmark. Until we can get rid of them, we will move them to the island of Lindholm,” the tweet read.

“They will be obliged to stay at the new deportation centre at night and there will be police around the clock. Great!”, the post continues.

Lindholm is currently used by the Technical University of Denmark’s (DTU) Veterinary Institute, which carries out research into viruses affecting cattle and swine. The research is carried out on the uninhabited island due to precautions against potential contagion.

DTU’s researchers will leave the island to make way for its new function, Jensen confirmed.

READ ALSO: Danish mayors call for closure of asylum 'departure centres'


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’.